If you’ve been reading this blog for some time you may remember that for a six month period of time I took leave of my executive search business to work as the manager of the fulfillment center for a record company in which I was an investor. The first responsibility of this assignment was recruiting one hundred individuals who would process orders that we received through our advertising efforts.
While I was comfortable with the interviewing and hiring process from my search business, I realized that there would be a challenge hiring this many people. These were full time jobs – but they only were going to last for the first quarter of the following year since we did eighty percent of our business in that time period. Most people either wanted a full time permanent job or were interested in working for only a few days a week. As a result I realized that although these were relatively low skilled jobs, I would have to offer more than the going wage in order to fill all the openings.
At the time, the minimum wage was $2.60 per hour. I began hiring people at a rate of $4.50 an hour and after the first wave of applicants were interviewed, I still had sixty openings between the two shifts we were to be open for business. I continued to advertise and in order to entice additional workers, raised the wages they were offered to $5.00 per hour. That still left me with thirty open positions. Finally I hired ten more people at $5.50 per hour. To fill the remaining openings, I contacted an agency that assisted people who wanted to work but were wheelchair handicapped. They were able to refer twenty of their clients who accepted positions with us at that final higher rate of pay.
January came and we were, as we expected, extremely busy. I worked both shifts and moved into a local hotel so that I could oversee the facility’s activities, returning home only for one day after the end of the second Saturday shift. I continued that until we started gearing down in April.
Several weeks after our busy period began, my assistant informed me that one of the new employees had asked to speak with me. She showed her into my office. I asked her how things were going and was pleased that she seemed to enjoy the work. However, she did have a question.
If you’ve ever worked in an office environment then you know that the matter of who is making how much is information that employees ferret out from one another in no time. That was what had happened in this woman’s case and was the reason she had requested to see me.
As it turned out, she was one of the few employees who had been hired at the highest rate – and she had discovered that many of her co-workers who were hired before she signed on were earning a lesser amount. She had come in to let me know that she felt that was “wrong.”
I explained how I had begun hiring at one rate and the people who had accepted employment at that rate apparently felt that salary was fair or they would not have accepted the position. I certainly had no ability to coerce them into taking the position – that came about as a voluntary decision on their part.
This woman went on to say that, “she didn’t feel it was right that she was making more money than others for doing the same work they were doing.” We went back and forth on this for about ten minutes and I could see that I was making no headway in changing her opinion. So I said, “You know, I can appreciate what you’re saying and I certainly don’t want to create an atmosphere where any of my employees feels uncomfortable. In order to resolve this, would you feel better about working here if I reduced your hourly rate from $5.50 to $4.50 per hour?” She responded that would not be something she wanted and she went back to work. I never heard anything more about wages from this employee.
Perhaps this employee was just ahead of her time. Like so many people of her mindset, she had the highest ideals and wanted justice for all – until it affected her personally. If she is still alive today, I’m sure she would applaud a decision by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights requiring that a high school in Canton, Michigan remove the bleachers that parents installed on the boys baseball field because they are of a “higher standard” than the bleachers in the girls softball field. This came about after an anonymous complaint alerted the Feds to this horrific situation.
The fact that the material and labor for the bleachers was paid for and contributed by parents did not matter to the DOE. They were consumed with the lack of parity between the two fields and the fact that the girls field was not as nice as the boys field after it was renovated. I can’t help wonder if it were the girls parents who had installed new bleachers and someone had filed an anonymous complaint about the boys field whether they would have taken the same action. But that is a matter of nothing more than conjecture. As is the question of why the parents of girls on the softball team, were they similarly offended, didn’t make the same effort to upgrade their children’s playing field.
We live in an age, encouraged through government fiat, of finger pointing. Rather than attempt to find ways that we can improve our own situation, we waste our time looking at those who have more than we have and shout, “unfair.” Somehow we look at tearing down others and feel empowered if we can find a government agency who will make their lives difficult and perhaps precipitate their downfall. That is incredibly pathetic.
By the way, if you remember back to those last twenty employees who were handicapped, when I hired them I realized that it would be difficult if not impossible for them to work for me because there were, at the time, no handicapped accessible facility requirements that were mandated and the way our warehouse was constructed, they would have had no access. I did find a solution for this issue.
I was able to find a steel ramp which we put in place when their bus arrived and removed when they were all inside. We repeated the process when they left after their shift ended. I didn’t need a government regulation to figure this out – just common sense.
But the truth of the matter is that if I wanted to hire these people today, I’m sure that the federal government would not accept my very workable solution and would have prevented me from hiring them – and most likely would have demanded that until I retrofitted the entire entrance I would have to shut down – thus eliminating the positions not only of our handicapped employees but all my other employees as well.
To paraphrase an old expression, “Whiners never quit.” But in today’s climate and culture, there is no dearth of government bureaucrats willing to listen to their complaints. America, what a country.