Friday, May 11, 2012


It's funny how the circumstances surrounding your situation can change your view of simple details. I mean, it makes sense. This is why companies couldn't charge over a dollar for a hamburger back in the day (that precise unit of measurement), but generally charge well over that now.

$10/hour. It's an interesting figure to me, simply because it has reoccurred throughout my working life. But it has meant different things in different circumstances.

Vision Security - 2007

I'd just come from a job that had a fair commute, so getting paid $10/hour to work closer to home, with an added bonus of getting a $10 bonus when I worked until midnight, seemed pretty nice. $10/hour. Nice.

Vision Security - 2010

I'd left, then gone back, and was -finally- back to what I was making when I'd worked there before. $.50/hour still didn't seem like a huge deal, though. It was nice money, could afford to live, eat out when I wanted to, and do pretty much whatever I wanted. Celebrated by going out to my favorite restaurant with a co-worker. $10/hour. Finally.

Gulfview Pizza & Pizza Metro - 2012

I am hired to a failing business, told I am going to be paid peanuts. I hear that, but know the minimum wage is high, so it can't really be -that- bad. It is. The minimum wage if you don't have regular hours here is $18.95.  (It is $15.79 for full time, but that has delineated benefits - pay for holidays, time off, retirement fund, etc.) The economy compared to the states is such that I'd say for an average item, it costs 1.7-1.9 times Australian Dollars for an equivalent item in US Dollars. Back up to the fact that I've lived in this country for about 11 months, and been unable to find any sort of employment. When I figure out that I'm getting pretty much $10/hour (the 8-10 deliveries a night at $5/delivery really end up being more like 0-2 deliveries), I feel stuck...I haven't been able to find something else. That $10/hour at 20-25 hours a week, working 5-6 days a week, having my life dominated by the work I go to in the evening, unable to even peek above the poverty line. $10/hour. Desperation.

It's been demoralizing. I'm being paid in cash, which I know is illegal, but I feel desperate, and because I know it is illegal, I feel like I have to keep quiet about it. Don't ask me why, I was trapped in a warped frame of thinking. I was demoralized. Without realizing it really. I never felt like doing anything. I always came back from work in a horrible mood, no matter how much money I'd made. My life seemed dominated by those 3 hours a night I spent, sitting around waiting to make pizzas, trying to figure out how to fill my time, checking ingredient tubs, making pizzas, taking orders. I feel disconnected, from my eating, from my life. I don't think I cooked a meal once while I was working there. I can't remember the last time I went that long without cooking. It is part of what makes me who I am. But I didn't even feel up to that.

I started to puzzle out the things in my life, trying to piece them together, get the building blocks that usually lead me closer to happiness. Go to bed earlier, exercise a bit more, eat better. I attacked each one of these, and at some point I realized it wasn't any of those things - it was something else, and those things not being present in my life were effects, not causes of my unhappiness. I felt devalued as a human being. I've come somewhere, and the only price anyone is willing to pay for my work is $10/hour. It made me feel like that was all I was worth, that I somehow had no worth here. All this was going on without me really being aware of it, because once I started to become aware of it, that's when I began to reject it.

Because I'll be damned if I am going to let someone else decide how much I'm worth, and especially that I'm going to lend credence to that decision when it is half what the government says my time is worth. Like, when the government values me more than I value myself, then I know I've strayed down a dangerous path.

I went in and talked with my boss today, told him that I shouldn't be being paid so little, told him that it is illegal. He hedged behind everyone else getting the same, and that he couldn't afford to pay more. (He can somehow afford to pay 2-3 employees for a shift and sit and do nothing all shift himself though. He can afford to pay people who just then take from the government - his business is being propped up by Centrelink. What he cannot afford to do is be in business - that's not my affair). He said he wouldn't stand in my way. So I'm done there. I will not accept that for myself anymore. I refuse to continue to do something that demoralizes me so. People will value you just as much as you make them. If you value yourself, people will value you much more.

So I am going to file a formal complaint through FairWork, and I've been pursuing work doing websites, which I meant to do along with the pizza job, but felt too demoralized to do at the time. Funny, as I was writing this entry, got an email that someone may want to outsource some of their web work to me, which I now have to set my own price for. Whatever the price, I can tell you it will end up being more than $10/hour. I'm worth way more than that.