The annual holiday tax on the working poor
Just when you need it most, your wages drop. And to make matters worse, the company might shut down for not one but two or even three days depending on the day of the week. Naturally, you want to be with your family and friends on the holiday. But when it cost you money to "celebrate," the holidays lose a lot of whatever meaning they may have once held.
I'm an optimistic man and feel that things are getting better here in America. But for now, stuck in a dead-end job with lousy pay, no benefits or health care, I can only say this about the end of the 2012 calendar year:
"I hate the holidays."
Any unemployed, poor or lower middle class worker knows what I'm talking about. Not only do you not have the money to properly celebrate the year-end holidays, they actually end up costing you what precious money you'd normally earn, even if you don't buy any gifts or the special meals you remember from your faded past.
That's because when the company shuts down for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's, you don't work and you don't get paid. Just when you need it most, your wages drop. And to make matters worse, the company might shut down for not one but two or even three days depending on the day of the week.
Naturally, you want to be with your family and friends on the holiday. But when it cost you money to "celebrate," the holidays lose a lot of whatever meaning they may have once held.
We, the working underclass, are a proud bunch, and don't try to complain too much. But friends and family and co-workers with living wage jobs usually forget about the holiday tax associated with so many people slogging out hardscrabble lives as cook, janitor, security guard, truck driver, store clerk, laborer, wait staff, food processor and so many more positions at the barrel bottom of the economy.
And it definitely doesn't help when you hear your more fortunate colleagues talking about their holiday surprise. "The company gave us all 20-lbs. turkeys this year." Or "The Christmas bonus is down a little, but it adds up to a month's pay. Sure helps our holiday."
I only pray that in years past when I had professional jobs with all the benefits that I was not as insensitive and unaware as I see others today who have no clue about the situation of other people they work with day in and day out. All shame on me if I was.
"Hey, it's up to you. Find a better job if this one isn't any good. Do you know how hard I work for my pay?"
Yes, I'm sure you work extremely hard, sir, unlike us. Excuse me while I try to find the number of the free clinic for my kids' next check up, right after I get another payday loan to fix the car. And please tell me again about your new 5.0 iphone while I get that daily lunch special ready. Coming right up. Sir."
I know I should be thankful that I have a job. I am. It's just that the people who own the businesses that employ folks like me in the bottom-end jobs do little or nothing during the holiday season when just a few dollars would go such a long way. Even a $10 or $20 bill helps. Something. Anything. Plus, we would never forget the gesture.
But the insensitivity and unaware character of the American management class is staggering in the extreme. Last year, in my day job as a low-wage, no benefits full-time security guard at a multi-million dollar warehouse facility, the big boss drove down to my station post a few days before Christmas.
"Thanks for your work here. We appreciate it."
I said "Merry Christmas" and thanks for the job. He drove off in a vehicle worth at least three times my annual salary, while I stood in the raw Oregon cold next to my 20-year-old wagon that doubles as the security shack.
And that was it. No $10 or $20 bill. Nothing. He's never spoken with me before or since.
Thankfully, he didn't drive over this year. I probably would have said something to lose my job.
But hey, Happy Holidays to you and yours. Tis the season, you know.
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