Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Skilled Labor

Having explored the value of unskilled labor, the question must be asked: what of skilled labor? What of the educated, the talented, and the innovative who find work plying their trade? It's all well and good to value the labors of those whose jobs are manual, tedious, and repetitive, but shouldn't the skilled workers be valued even more?

It's a fair question, and a necessary one in this capitalist society, in which value is measured by its price tag.

There are other things that add value to a job beyond the pay, of course.

I've worked two jobs simultaneously before: as a security guard and as a Gamestop employee. The security guard job paid better, offered more hours, and required very little from me; it was a perfect job for someone who enjoyed doing a lot of nothing and getting paid for it. On the other hand, Gamestop was high-energy and demanding: there were sales goals, without even a commission to act as an incentive. The pay was worse, and the hours were unpredictable and often scarce.

When the opportunity came to get promoted at Gamestop, though, I took it and ditched the security guard job. The pay and the hours were still less than I would get as a security guard, but the Gamestop position offered me things I couldn't get at my other job: sales experience (an important skill), camaraderie (security is often a lonely job), the chance to work closely with video games, and just generally more fulfilling work, as I found working security to be mind-numbingly dull. In short, there was something more than money at stake.

I think that's the most important thing an education affords you: the opportunity to escape the drudgery of unskilled labor. An education can give you the opportunity to find something you enjoy doing and show you how to make a living doing it. Or, even if you don't actively enjoy it, it's still possibly preferable to the alternative: cooking fast food, stocking shelves at a grocery store, or watching an abandoned building for twelve hours at a time.

And that's not even accounting for the fact that, for some, education is its own reward. I suppose not everyone is an eternal scholar, but just last year I signed up for some college courses I knew I didn't even need, but I took them anyway and paid for them for the sheer enjoyment of learning. And, given how many college graduates I know that do not, in fact, have a job in the field they studied (myself included; hello Mass Communication degree), I certainly hope people are at least enjoying the education process.

Anyway, given that people with jobs that make use of their education, skills, or talents are by definition not working those (often) less-desirable, unskilled jobs, is that enough of a reward for the time, money, and effort they spend on acquiring that education/skill/talent? Or should they also get paid more?

There's no denying that these jobs are valuable, to be clear. But do these jobs deserve more monetary compensation than the people who work more unpleasant, unsanitary, high-stress, exhausting, and even dangerous jobs that are, nonetheless, "unskilled?"

As someone who worked two jobs to help pay for my own education, I can say with certainty that it's ridiculous that people should have to go through that to make ends meet. I only kept it up for a few months, but for some people it's their daily reality for years. I have a hard time accepting that my education and luck which led to my privileged position today should, in fact, mean that I get to both work less hard and earn more money.

Yet, that's the reality. For whatever reason, the market values what I do more than what others do. I'm okay with being paid more; I think there's justification for that, if for no other reason than to allay the cost of my education. But how much more? It's hard to justify a huge paycheck when others in your company are struggling to make ends meet.

That's not the case at Fangamer, so far as I know, and I'd like to do what I can to see that it stays that way.

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