“I Sold My Soul… To The Company Store”

 

 

SIXTEEN TONS

 

“Some people say a man is made outta mud
A poor man's made outta muscle and blood
Muscle and blood and skin and bones
A mind that's a-weak and a back that's strong

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

I was born one mornin' when the sun didn't shine
I picked up my shovel and I walked to the mine
I loaded sixteen tons of number nine coal
And the straw boss said "Well, a-bless my soul"

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

I was born one mornin', it was drizzlin' rain
Fightin' and trouble are my middle name
I was raised in the canebrake by an ol' mama lion
Cain't no-a high-toned woman make me walk the line

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

If you see me comin', better step aside
A lotta men didn't, a lotta men died
One fist of iron, the other of steel
If the right one don't a-get you
Then the left one will

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store”

 

- Tennessee Ernie Ford

 

 

 

            Everyone seems to be talking about minimum wage and how badly the common citizen is getting fucked over. Either they are saying we all deserve a fairer rate of pay or they are saying if we want more pay we need to “Get a real job” and stop whining.

            I know I am exaggerating but not by much.

            I am one of the low paid masses. Yes I am a professional writer, and boy do I laugh when people assume that means I have money, but like 99% of all writers I have a day job.

            I work as a Janitor at (LOCATION REDACTED) It is a job I have held for more than five years (as long as you forget about my four month “vacation” in 2011). I am not ashamed of being a Janitor, or Cleaner as we are called here. I’ve been doing this kind of work since I was 14 and I’m comfortable with it. It’s honest work and I do it well, I have an attention for details and just enough OCD to appreciate the results. I work hard at my job and I am happy to have it especially considering the economy of my region. We were one of the hardest hit areas of the country in the 2008 collapse.

            A couple of week ago I received a letter from my employers. At first I was excited because it opened up by talking about the rising cost of living and how hard it is for those of us living day by day and scraping a living. Then I read the rest of the letter and my guts were filled with rage. We were being given a onetime cost of living raise of $0.10 an hour. I am still considering telling them to cram it. But I need the money even if it is a damn dime.

            The worst happened the next day at work.

            The middle and upper management had the fucking gall to act like we should be grateful. They were acting like that fucking dime, that four extra dollars a week, was proof the company gave two shits about us and that we have the best working conditions in the country.

            A couple of facts about my place of employment.

            The starting pay in out department is $8.45 an hour. Think about that for a second. I work for a multimillion dollar nonprofit religious organization and they start the support staff at less than $8.50 an hour. We do receive benefits, not good or affordable benefits but benefits none the less. We earn paid time off. The rate of accruement is decent so I won’t bitch about that. We are allowed to call off 6 times in a year… then we are fired. That is one of the strictest attendance policies I’ve ever been under in my working history. Now for the kicker, we get holidays off but our holiday pay… they take it from out paid time off.

            So I hope that gives you an idea of my working situation.

            Right now I have friends who are shaking their heads and thinking one of three general things. I’m sure other thoughts are crawling through their heads but these are the ones I’ve heard repeated ad nausea in the online echo chamber.

            Either they are thinking. You knew what the starting pay and benefits situation was when you took the job if you don’t like it get a new job.

            Or you are thinking. Why don’t you just go back to school and get an education? If you are not going to make an effort to better yourself you can’t expect to make more.

            And my favorite train of thought. If somebody doesn’t make starvation wages (my words not theirs they’ll just call it low wages and pretend the money is adequate) then prices will rise, a can of coke will cost $20.00, and America will die!

            You think that’s an exaggeration?

            Nope I had an asshole tell me that once about two months ago.

            I am not going to address the problems of corporate America. I think I’ve made my thoughts on it clear enough this year. What I am going to do is focus for a few paragraphs on how this all effects me and the people in my life. This won’t take long and for most of you it won’t hurt much.

            I was curious as to why my job even gave us that insulting raise. They don’t have to, we get yearly 2.25% raises (merit has nothing to do with our raises) and there is no recourse. We accept it or we get the fuck out.

            Then it occurred to me that the push for a raise of the minimum wage is vocal in Ohio. So I looked into the organizations lobbying for no increase and the companies financing them. It took a few layers of detective work (which means I worked Google like a $5 tranny whore for half an hour) and bingo I had my answer. My employer, through one of its non-profit arms, was donating substantially to the effort. I received a dime raise so my employers could point and say they were making an effort.

            I am not a Communist.

            I am not a Corporate Capitalist.

            I am not a Blind Free Market Theist.

            I am not a Libertarian.

            I am a Progressive Free Marketist with a few Socialist and Libertarian bends. If you can decipher that more power to you. What that means for me is that I believe everyone should be paid a livable fair wage for their WORK not to stay home and sit on their ass. I believe all American’s (all humans really but I believe in dealing with my own house first) have the right to living wages, health care, education, and dignity in the work place.

            If you don’t agree… keep it to yourself I’m not debating this one.

 

 

            -Josh

            

Comment

Josh Hilden

When I was born on August 3, 1976 in the great state of Michigan the hills shook and the sky was swept with fire. These were portents of the greatness for my future that was written in the stars ... I'm still waiting for that greatness. My name is Josh Hilden and I am many things. I am a husband, a father, a son, a friend. These are all important things but at my core I am an artist and the medium that I work in is words. I am a writer of Horror, Science Fiction, Drama, and Role Playing Games. I worked for Palladium Books (www.palladiumbooks.com) and Third Eye Games (www.thirdeyegames.net) before striking out on my own and founding a small press publishing company Gorillas with Scissors Press (www.gwspress.com). I also work for Fat Goblin Games (www.fatgoblingames.com). In the everyday world I can be found spending time with my family and friends. I have been married to my lovely wife Karen since 1996 and we have six amazing children. We tend to be a family of unabashed geeks and gamers who were geek before geek was chic. If you are really interested in me I am very active online with a personal and a writing blog along with a plethora of social media outlets. If you have any questions or just want to chat hit me up!