Hopefully, a lot more.
Here’s an article that makes me feel really good. Check it out here.
There’s no better way to celebrate the trades than to encourage the real people who are actually taking the time to learn one, and that’s exactly what I hope to do with help from organizations like AED. The amounts are modest, but the direction is exactly right, and I’m really excited about funding many more scholarships and tool stipends in the near future.
Last month at Con Expo, I stopped by the I Make America booth and ran into this guy.
As luck would have it, Andrew Reisinger is one of the recipients of this year’s mikeroweWORKS Foundation Tools Scholarship, a financial award that can be applied toward whatever tools he may need upon graduation. Andrew recognized me, and waited (in a ridiculously long line) to thank me for the scholarship. In turn, I’d like to thank all of you who have contributed to the Foundation. Read More...
I don’t need a fight with the teacher’s union any more than I need one with PETA, or OSHA, or the EPA. And as the son of two teachers, I don’t need any trouble with my parents either. (Believe me, nobody want that.) But this business in Wisconsin is fascinating, and this article goes right to the heart of something we’ve discussed here at length – the changing definition of a “good job.”
It’s interesting what we value, and how those values change over time. But only on a perpetually full stomach could we allow such a disparity to exist between the people we pay to educate our kids, and the people we pay to feed them.
Victor Davis Hanson
On Teachers and Others
In judging teachers’ claims, we might compare their lives with the lives of, say, farmers or welders or interstate truckers.
So far the angry teachers of Wisconsin have not yet won over the public. They have not convinced the majority that, in an age of staggering budget deficits, they — or, indeed, public employees in general — must as a veritable birthright enjoy salary, benefits, and pensions on average far more generous than those of their private-sector counterparts, who make up the majority of taxpayers.
Teachers are right that the crisis transcends compensation. Yet why, others might ask, would teachers’ unions oppose merit pay? Why should someone who did not join the union still have to pay its dues? Why should the state have to collect the dues from employee paychecks on behalf of the union? Moreover, when these questions are posed amid a landscape of teachers skipping classes to protest, urging students to join them, and soliciting fraudulent doctors’ notes to cover their cancellations of classes — while their supporters in the legislature hide out to prevent a quorum and thereby subvert the democratic process reaffirmed last November — the public becomes further estranged from their cause.
All of this evoked my own memories of a teaching life juxtaposed with farming in the private sector. After receiving a Ph.D. in 1980 I returned home to work the trees and vines for five years in hopes of helping to restore a run-down farm. I then was employed first as a part-time teacher and then as a professor at California State University, Fresno, for 21 years (1984–2004). Some of that time I continued to farm on weekends and in the summers.
The experience was schizophrenic. In farming, almost everyone I met was constantly hustling — welders, independent truckers, contractors. There was no guaranteed income, no pension other than Social Security, and no health benefits of any kind. I bought a Farm Bureau–sponsored private health plan with a $1,000 deductible — catastrophic coverage that I never found occasion to use — and paid cash for doctor’s office visits. My first two children’s deliveries maxed out my Visa card.
There was no sick leave for the self-employed. A day with the flu meant the amount of work to do the next day doubled. Weekly compensation was not compensation at all, but rather an advance on an operating loan from the bank: If the crop came in and sold, and if at the end of the year such income exceeded expenses (I remember my first year, in 1980, we borrowed at 17 percent, and prices for everything from sulfur to fertilizer went up 10 to 15 percent in mere months), then one earned something for the year’s aggregate labor. If not (as in 1983, when, without explanation, the price of raisins crashed from $1,200 to $450 a ton), then one not merely earned nothing, but in effect paid for the privilege of working — a common, humiliating fate for the strapped pizza-parlor owner, the independent window-cleaner, or the car dealer. I figured that the 1983–84 operating losses meant that I owed the bank about $12 an hour for each hour I had driven the tractor, pruned, or irrigated, the entire time unknowingly paying for the privilege of hard physical labor. Again, all that is too familiar for legions of realtors, insurance salesmen, contractors, and the variously self-employed.
Originally Posted by dirtysal
I also understand (but can’t relate) why these union member are upset over collective bargaining being ousted. They seem to see it as their “rights” being taken away. I can’t, for the life of me, understand how this “luxury” can be called a “right”? I just don’t get it with my simple mind.
My own simple mind is similarly challenged, especially around the business of “collective bargaining.” Doesn’t the government currently forbid “collective bargaining” in the private sector? Don’t we frown on things like the formation of monopolies and the practice of price fixing?
If private corporations were allowed to collude and fix prices, the consumer would pay dearly, because those all important competitive forces would simply vanish from the market. (If “collective bargaining” were allowed in the airline industry for instance, the carriers could all get together and agree to double the price of air travel tomorrow. Or triple it. Can you imagine this happening in the food industry?) The teachers union is currently allowed to do what every private industry would love to do – eliminate the competition, and charge the consumer the maximum amount possible. Extraordinary. How is “collective bargaining” in the public sector any different, and why did we ever allow it in the first place?
Read more of this interesting, eclectic and enlightening conversation that covers everything from farmers, teachers, unions and the economy then join in with your thoughts and comments. Join the Water Cooler Conversation “Farmers vs. Teachers?” here
Kimberly-Clark makes everything from Kleenex to Kotex. (Alphabetically of course, there isn’t much between Kleenex and Kotex, but you get the idea.) They manufacture safety equipment, medical supplies, paper towels, toilet paper, and a truly comprehensive line of diapers, including Huggies, Depends, Little Swimmers, Goodnights and something called Poise, which Whoopi Goldberg is very excited about. (They make lots and lots of diapers.)
In addition to making diapers for all ages, Kimberly-Clark is creative. A hundred years ago they designed the original cardboard tube inside paper rolls. Impressive. More impressive, nearly a hundred years later they’ve figured out a way to ingeniously remove the very same cardboard tube without affecting the way the roll spins. Hence, millions of trees have been saved, the planet has been rescued from certain doom, and the paper roll has been revolutionized for the second time in a century by the same company. Clearly, this is the kind of company I can get behind, so to speak, so I have agreed to appear in a new commercial for their unusually durable paper towels called Viva! That’s right, Viva! (With an exclamation point.)
Allow me to anticipate your question. Why would a guy with a public affection for dirt and a known aversion to exclamation points associate himself with a paper towel whose name conjures up opening night at The Moulin Rouge? I’ll tell you why. But first, let’s watch the commercial that will soon be adding to your daytime viewing pleasure. Click HERE Read More...
Mike – I’m not on the Crumbling Infrastructure Bandwagon. It’s very much a case of a buzzword becoming truth, and like the now discredited Global Warming farce, naysayers are branded as ignorant clods. They are pitied as being blind to Undeniable Truths. Speaking from the perspective of the uneducated prol, here’s how I see it:
The American Society of Civil Engineers is hardly an objective observer in this matter. Civil Engineers do a great many things, but most make their living designing, building and maintaining, what? Infrastructure!
There are three problems here. First, of course things are crumbling, at least in their eyes. Good roads and adequate sewers do not add anything to their bottom line. They make big money when things are being built. They make decent money when things are being refurbished. They make no money when either routine maintenance or patching is being done. And best of all, an awful lot of these guys make their livings off the U.S. taxpayers.
Secondly, engineers do not know everything they think they do. Remember the show about paving? How the Interstate Highway system was built using materials and practices that were supposed to last twenty-plus years? And the highways in Nebraska were deteriorating far faster than that? In my part of the country, it’s even worse. Roads get built on black loam, which covers peat, which covers coal, which covers limestone. The limestone can be over a hundred feet down. Plus high to low temperature excursions of 120+ degrees. It’s no wonder the roads deteriorate, but any engineer worth his plaid pants will assure you that he can build a twenty year road, despite ample evidence to the contrary.
Thirdly, nothing is ever built to really last. Designing and building any project is a tradeoff between cost and durability. New materials evolve faster than the old ones fail. Things become lighter, cheaper, and faster to build, and building techniques advance every year. Why? Labor is expensive! Compared to the rest of a project, it usually isn’t really, but if you look at a road or a culvert, you see concrete, not footprints.
I was an Engineer in a former life. I’ve seen the underbelly. Indeed, I was a scale on that underbelly, and I am sorry to admit that I was a darned good scale, but a scale nonetheless. I just didn’t have the stomach for it after while, and went blue collar.
Sorry for the all of stomach references, it wasn’t very dignified. But I’ve never squat-thrown freethrows in a red shorty, either!
I hear ya, D. But it’s funny how quickly the bandwagon got built. Five years ago, a nexus search of major newspapers would have yielded a return on “infrastructure” at a fraction of its current ubiquity. Most people didn’t even know what it meant. There is indeed a “bandwagon.” But it’s still relatively small.
“It’s very much a case of a buzzword becoming truth, and like the now discredited Global Warming farce, naysayers are branded as ignorant clods. They are pitied as being blind to Undeniable Truths.”
Good point. It’s never as simple as a “bad grade,” but it’s also a pretty clear case of “out of sight out of mind.” And unlike global warming, the infrastructure is a thing we can actually improve. It’s within our power. The issue, is whether or not it’s worth our trouble to do so. I agree that there is not much credible evidence that proves that man has in fact “created” global warming. But we all know who “created” the infrastructure. And I’m pretty sure we all know who will have to fix it.
“Speaking from the perspective of the uneducated prol, here’s how I see it:”
It’s the only credible perspective…
“The American Society of Civil Engineers is hardly an objective observer in this matter. Civil Engineers do a great many things, but most make their living designing, building and maintaining, what? Infrastructure!”
Agreed. But then, who IS objective these days? And while a lack objectivity is good cause for suspicion, it’s not an indicator of inaccuracy.
“There are three problems here. First, of course things are crumbling, at least in their eyes. Good roads and adequate sewers do not add anything to their bottom line. They make big money when things are being built. They make decent money when things are being refurbished. They make no money when either routine maintenance or patching is being done. And best of all, an awful lot of these guys make their livings off the U.S. taxpayers.”
I don’t see that as problem, so much as a fact. The ASCE is biased. But again, that doesn’t mean they’re incorrect. Personally, there is nothing more vexing than the sight of my tax-dollars being used to repair a thing that does not actually require repair. Waste is never ever a good thing. It’s immoral, in my opinion. Clearly there is a conflict of interest with the ASCE, and that conflict should always be acknowledged and injected into any conversation on the topic. I should have made a bigger point of that in the show, and regret that I did not.
“Secondly, engineers do not know everything they think they do. Remember the show about paving? How the Interstate Highway system was built using materials and practices that were supposed to last twenty-plus years? And the highways in Nebraska were deteriorating far faster than that? In my part of the country, it’s even worse. Roads get built on black loam, which covers peat, which covers coal, which covers limestone. The limestone can be over a hundred feet down. Plus high to low temperature excursions of 120+ degrees. It’s no wonder the roads deteriorate, but any engineer worth his plaid pants will assure you that he can build a twenty year road, despite ample evidence to the contrary.”
The reasons why roads and pipes and bridges and everything else fall apart are several, and most definitely include faulty thinking and dubious analysis and questionable conclusions on the part of human “experts.” (You may recall Act 6 of The Dirty Jobs Platitude Special, Be Wary of Experts.) However, the current problems (and I think we agree there are real pressing problems to some extent, right?) exist separate and apart from their various causes. Left untreated, there will most certainly be consequences. We see them every single day. Gas lines blow up. Sewers rupture. Bridges fall down. How dire, and when these consequences present themselves is a matter of degree. (Or, as the ASCE would say, D-gree.)
“Thirdly, nothing is ever built to really last.”
And even if they were, they wouldn’t. That is to say, they couldn’t. No matter how advanced we become, all things fail, sooner or later. Beyond the bias and the politics and the posturing and the “works projects” and the “planned obsolescence,” the second law of thermodynamics is looming like a barking dark in the backyard. Things fall apart. All things.
“Designing and building any project is a tradeoff between cost and durability. New materials evolve faster than the old ones fail. Things become lighter, cheaper, and faster to build, and building techniques advance every year. Why? Labor is expensive! Compared to the rest of a project, it usually isn’t really, but if you look at a road or a culvert, you see concrete, not footprints.”
Your point seems to make a better case for alarm than suspicion. Expensive labor is an excellent reason to postpone a necessary repair. As you point out, there is nothing fiscally advantageous or politically expedient in the business of routine maintenance. People who promise to build bridges get elected. People who promise to maintain them get pushed aside. Part of the reason the infrastructure is a mess – in my opinion – is because we don’t value maintenance.
“I was an Engineer in a former life. I’ve seen the underbelly. Indeed, I was a scale on that underbelly, and I am sorry to admit that I was a darned good scale, but a scale nonetheless. I just didn’t have the stomach for it after a while, and went blue collar.”
I suspect you possess other qualities worthy of admiration. But this one is very good.
“Sorry for the all of stomach references, it wasn’t very dignified. But I’ve never squat-thrown freethrows in a red shorty, either!”
First time for everything. Perhaps I’ll convince Barsky to auction his outfit on E-bay, and donate the proceeds to a road-crew near you…
Tune in to Dirty Jobs episode “Dirty Infrastructure” to learn more about those who do the work to keep our bridges, roads and sewers up and running.
Mike, I’m a public school teacher in Texas, one of the lowest ranking states in education. I’m doing what I can one 8th grader at a time.
Would it be offensive to the people who go out and work these dirty jobs every day (yes I know I need them to keep my cozy little world running!) to reference some of the ones I’ve seen as a “stay in school” message? It’s my job to use what kids like to try and motivate them, and they love this show. I’m not all about political correctness, but I get huffy when people say I teach because I couldn’t go out and get a real job. So, I just wondered if it would be insulting to imply these might be jobs they could avoid. — kj
If someone used you as an example of why the teaching field should be avoided, you might get “huffy.” I suspect anyone who takes some pride in what they do might feel the same way, regardless of the job.
I just helped a school in FL with a DJ Career Day. The focus was not on the consequences of not finishing school – but on the many different jobs necessary to keep society running. The kids were left to draw their own conclusions, and ponder the kinds of jobs rarely discussed as viable options.
When it comes to earning a living, I’d be very careful about drawing a distinction between good jobs and bad jobs. It’s true that a lot of people see a “cautionary” message in Dirty Jobs. Well, people tend to find what they look for. And ignore what they don’t want to see.
If it were me, I’d be suggesting that some jobs are better paying and more “glamorous” than others, but no less honorable. I’d stress that an education will afford your students more choices, and more choices are always good. Mike
October 10, 2010
Finally home, and man am I tired. Frankly, I don’t remember the last time I felt this whipped. Then again, I don’t remember the last time I’ve been this old. Coincidence? Probably not. Looking back, I can see now that each of the last ten days required a separate part of my brain. Which is probably why nothing got my undivided attention.
Started in Peoria, where I got to know the big shots over at Caterpillar, and some of the smaller shots as well. Really an amazing company and a very nice bunch of regular folks. They love, love, love mrW, and we’re going to do some very cool things together. Took a tour of the factory, gave a speech of sorts to a few hundred office types, had a turkey wrap with the new CEO, gave another speech, and shot some promos for the upcoming Con Expo thing in Vegas. Also had a great dinner at Denny’s (not the restaurant, but the home of one of the big shots) and left with an extraordinary bottle of rare Australian port. Shortly, it will go from “rare” to “empty.”
Headed from there up to Mackinac Island to shoot another Dirty Jobs special. This one is called Dirty Conversations, and proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Dirty Jobs is little more than a talk show without a set and a bunch of smart aleck guests with dirty minds. It also proves that I will return to Mackinac for any thinly veiled excuse imaginable.
The crew and I had a ball, as did the twins who accompanied me throughout the show. Some of you will recall the Maedel sisters, Carolyn and Marilyn. Well, they’re back – chattier and charminger than ever before, finishing each other’s sentences and recalling their favorite moments from Dirty Jobs with more enthusiasm and encyclopedic accuracy than yours truly could ever hope to match. For identical people, they’re utterly original. And how they wound up in my bed at 3 am one evening is a tale so harrowing and disturbingly true that the details will need to be vetted by my imaginary publicist. Suffice it say that Barsky was to blame, and my journal now has another long and troubling entry.
The next day, (or maybe it was the day before?) some people from another Fortune 500 Company flew to the island to discuss a relationship with mrW. This was unexpected but very good news. Any company that supports manufacturing and skilled labor is a welcome, and this is a big one. It seems likely we’ll find a way to work together on something, at which point I’ll be able to refer to them by name.
From Mackinac it was down to Detroit for a few days with Ford, and then over to New York to participate in something called Ad Week. Ad Week in Manhattan is a lot like Fashion Week, without the skinny models and silly clothes. People come from all over to discuss what’s new and exciting in the fascinating world of crass commercialism, and I was invited to speak about how mrW is changing the way many companies view the spokesperson/customer dynamic. Very flattering.
I talked mostly about the tension between authenticity and production, and the difference between a host and a guest. I argued that the traditional spokesperson was an endangered species (Howie Long) and shared my view that celebrities who get paid to hit a mark and read a prompter are overpaid at any price. My friends at Lee and Caterpillar also participated, and explained to a baffled crowd how I insisted on interviewing them at length before agreeing to do business. (Hey, who says an audition can’t go both ways?)
Then it was down to DC to scold Congress for not watching DJ. Actually, I went there to officially launch a campaign called “I Make America,” or IMA, which I tried but failed to rename “I Make a Mess.” Sponsored by The Associated Equipment Manufacturers, or AEM, IMA is the latest co-branded venture for mrW, which in my mind is A-OK. The initiative is designed to highlight the contributions of hundreds of real people who work in manufacturing, and ultimately reverse a pile of lop-sided trade agreements and harebrained policies currently destroying our ability to compete with modest little upstarts like China and everybody else.
This was my first experience addressing our elected officials and probably my last. That’s not to say that it didn’t go well – I’m told the event was a resounding success. But Washington DC is a place unto itself – a giant, sleepless PR mechanism that never pauses or slows down. The reporters’ questions to me were esoteric and very detailed, which or course lead to thoughtful responses like “Beats me,” and “You don’t say?” I’m not an expert on free-trade and foreign currency fluctuations, and after Colbert’s performance last month in front of a similar crowd, I was determined to be myself, tell the truth and keep it simple. This seemed to confuse people at first but whatever – I relied mostly on the Dirty Jobs mission statement and argued that our problems in manufacturing were really just another symptom of a dysfunctional relationship with dirt, work, and skilled labor. It actually played pretty well. I just had to repeat it till I was hoarse. Earlier that morning I wrote an op-ed piece for U.S. News and World Report. Apparently, they actually printed it.
From there it was back to the hotel for an all night conversation with my friends at Discovery who have become curious about what I might have planned for the next stage of my Forrest Gump inspired career. As some of you know, my current deal with the Network is closer to its end then it’s beginning, an undeniable fact that causes my masters in Silver Spring to frown at their productions schedules and ask questions like, “Now what?” Though we failed to resolve that question, we did succeed in destroying another mini-bar and promised to revisit the matter a few seconds before my contract actually expires.
The flight home from DC would have been direct, but for a quick detour in Milwaukee and another meeting that was almost too good to be true. Master Lock. This is another remarkable company with a real commitment to skilled labor and a genuine desire to help support mrW. Who am I to say no? Standby for more on that as things develop.
That’s enough for now. I’m taking another nap and wishing you all a pleasant week.