The day I got married was a beautiful day: clear and cool, with a deep blue sky and puffy white clouds. Any doubts I had were dispelled when I walked out my door that morning.
Yesterday was a day just like that, a perfect day to carry mail. Days like that I almost feel guilty for taking money.
But then I think of last week: day after day of oppressive heat, smothering humidity, coming home feeling like a wrung-out dishrag.
And on top of that enduring a new supervisor, threatening disciplinary action against the carriers – mostly in their 50s – who took, in his estimation, too long to deliver their routes.
Not that there was any serious concern about this; the Union would make sure that any attempt at something so stupid -when there were heat advisories – would go precisely nowhere.
On days like the ones I endured last week it never fails; just when I begin feeling bad for myself I spot a trash collector. Not only is he working in the same heat and humidity, he is doing much harder labor, lifting heavy loads. And garbage stinks when it is hot, and is infested with maggots.
Yesterday a Waste Management trash collector was picking up bags of garbage just as I was delivering mail. I stopped and told him this, that his job was so much more difficult than mine, how it gave me perspective when I started feeling sorry for myself. And I told him that he was underpaid, that if there was any justice in the world he would make $100,000 a year. After all, he was doing something absolutely necessary for the common good, a strenous job that few coveted.
He told me that he had done this for 4 years and only made $16.80 an hour.
No; there was one at an outfit in Akron, but they laid off the entire crew and hired replacements, the sort of criminal act one can pull with impunity in the United States, where labor is largely unprotected.
We talked about the decline in organized labor and the decline in the wages of the working class, two highly entwined phenomena. And we talked about how, not so long ago, there were two workers assigned to a truck, how they would take turns driving and loading trash. No more; the companies discovered that they could cut costs by using only one man. Never mind that such relentless labor will wear a man out (ever seen a middle aged trash collector?) After all, workers are a dime a dozen.
Then we both had to get back to work.
Oh, David P Steiner, the CEO of Waste Management Inc, makes 5.19 million a year. I doubt he has ever broken a sweat. Or smelled rotten refuse. Or maggots.
Like all capitalists, he reaps the wealth that workers create, and gives them back a pittance.
He no doubt sleeps like a baby at night.
And stinks, morally, worse than maggoty garbage on a hot summer day.