In his 1931 movie City Lights, Charlie Chaplin appearing as The Tramp is working in a factory in which he is tested for a new device that the company bigwigs want to install that will allow the employers to eat while they work. It’s a comical piece of slapstick but there’s always a painful truth in all comedy.
Recently, a wedding photographer was all over the news and Internet after she had posted a previous incident in which she had deleted all the photos she had taken in front of a married couple after they had denied her time to eat with the other guests. She reports that she had submitted her RSVP but had discovered they hadn’t even had a seat for her at a table. She had been working rather as a favor for only $250. (And from what I’ve heard, that is peanuts. They lucked out with that.)
So, she had been working since 11 a.m. that day in the late summer heat when around 5-6 p.m., she was told that she was going to have to continue to take photos and eat something later. I believe she was told if she didn’t continue to take photos or went to a nearby gas station or fast food place, they were going to refuse to pay her, so she deleted the photos and left.
I agree with her totally. I don’t see the bride and grooms’ side. They don’t have one. They wanted to save a couple of thousand dollars so they talked a dog groomer who takes pics on the side and posts them online into being their photographer. This is typical behavior of people who think they can pinch pennies. I’m sure some of you have had something similar happen to you or someone you know.
My brother has been singing and performing in musicals and operas since he was in high school. One time, an organization from my home town asked him if he would come and sing…for free. Well, not for free. He’d “get the exposure.” He lives in the Atlanta area and the place was a good hour drive away, so two hours on travel plus whatever time he had to wait until the event happened. In the end, you’re looking at half a day, at least, to sing at an event of only what a few dozen people. Maybe there would be a picture in the paper.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, he worked for the fucking Atlanta Opera. What exposure would he need from some small-town civic club meeting where almost everyone in attendance knew him or knew someone who he was related to?
The “exposure” is what the tell people to avoid paying people. Donald Trump reportedly did a lot of this. You shouldn’t be talked into doing things for free, as favors, or for exposure, unless it’s someone you’re really close to. I do believe in giving some charity, but that is your call, not others. When I was a newspaper editor, a few of the non-profits and churches expected to have items in the paper and online as much as possible because “it was a community event.”
So? The newspaper was a business. Would you go into a community drug store and expect any drugs you wanted. Or how about a community bank? Would you expect them to fork over wads of 10s and 20s just because they’re a community bank?
I remember when a group of Boy Scouts came to the office one evening while I was working at a newspaper in Americus, Ga. Apparently, one of the den mothers expected that each kid should be given a free paper. Considering that the paper usually didn’t print until about midnight or 1 a.m., I’m sure they might have been given one, maybe. Come to think of it, they didn’t have to let the Boy Scouts in the office after hours anyway.
It’s ironic the people who are usually pushing that “free stuff” language are usually the ones expecting you to give them as much free or discounted stuff as possible. A civic club from my home town, would send a representative to the Wal-Mart bakery one summer when I worked there to try to negotiate free or reduced items that we were “just going to throw away anyway.” I wonder how much they were charging for fees in the organization to get almost stale French bread.
But the issue with the photographer brings the entire economic and job market issue to a bigger understanding. What’s the difference between the photographer and someone working at a fast food restaurant or gas station being expected to work for less. Some would say $250 is enough. But she was expected to work 10 hours, so that’s $25 an hour, right? Well, there’s other expenses.
First, she has to go through all the photos one at a time to see which she can use and which she can’t. Since she doesn’t have her own processing material, she probably would’ve had to gone through Walgreens, CVS or Walmart for hard copies which can be expensive when added up. And we’re not told how many prints they expected. Did they also expect her to burn it to CDs or save on flash drives. Was she expected to arrange the photos in an album? How much gasoline did she burn going to and from the event?
It wasn’t just 10 hours. This was my main issue when I was working at a newspaper because people acted like a picture was nothing. But then, people wouldn’t show up on time. Or it was so far away, the gasoline and time actually made a dent in your work schedule. It could take sometimes a couple of hours snapping photos. And yet, in an era where people have good cameras on their smart phones. They can take a picture and send it in an email in only a few minutes.
But they didn’t want to do that. They want you there, but they don’t want you there. I had a few organizations that wanted me to cover their events but stay invisible. One was the junior livestock people who always expected something big in the paper. The fucked-up part was they had people there taking pictures themselves. Why not send me those pictures? Because they wanted my presence but whenever I tried to get info, they would act like they didn’t have time.
Another incident in which I was screwed over was when the Catholic church would have a spaghetti and meatball dinner prior to the annual Christmas parade. My predecessor would get free tickets but when I became editor, those tickets stopped. Yet, they still asked if I was coming by to cover it? So, I thought they’d just let me in. The Masonic Lodge and Odd Fellows would let me eat free when I took pictures of their fund-raisers. When, I went to the church with my ex, they held out their hand and said that we had to pay if we wanted to eat. Needless to say, I notice some people with the livestock program were also involved in the spaghetti dinner.
That was the last year I went to the church dinner and the following livestock show, I told them they would have to submit their own photos. And boy did this piss people off. But both the livestock show and spaghetti dinner were happening in the evenings and on weekends, so I wasn’t getting paid any extra to attend them as I was salaried. If if I was expected to pay for the the spaghetti dinner or the BBQ dinner they served at the livestock show, I was actually losing my own money.
Unfortunately, salaried positions are becoming some of the biggest rip-offs in this economy. People are working 10, 15, 20, and even longer hours over 40 but still being expected just to be paid for 40. That was one of the reasons why I left the job at the newspaper. There were too many evening and weekend events that it wasn’t feasible nor logical to be expected to be at your desk no later than 9 a.m. every day if a meeting ended late the previous night.
There is no labor shortage. People are finally wising up to the notion that they can’t spend any extra 20 hours a week not making anything for it. This is the way things were before the labor unions became popular in the post-WWII era. And it’s no surprise the biggest anti-union people have been Boomers, who were able to profit the most off it. It’s mostly they didn’t experience the workforce before so to them, it just seemed easy and why couldn’t others do the same as them?
I’m not 100 percent in support of unions. There’s corruption, especially with the Teamsters and police unions. What was supposed to help truck drivers became a cash cow for the Mafia. Police unions were supposed to help good, honest law officers who arrest the mayor’s son for rape or a bank official for drunk driving from having any repercussions to their jobs. Unfortunately, it developed into a License to Harass, Intimidate, Assault and Kill for them.
But factory and warehouse workers are still working in unsafe environments, so something needs to be done. People want cheap labor so they can have more profits. But you get what you pay for. Businesses with high turnover rates don’t look good in the end. When I left my company, they couldn’t keep any advertising reps on for long because they gave them impossible goals to meet. And I think the high turnover was a reason people stop advertising.
Eventually, all this will blow up. And as I write this, I heard that Kellogg has workers striking. I hope they get better pay and benefits. Ironically, as I was watching this, I had Office Space on. No one cares about a “Hawaiian Shirt Day” or Free Pizza when you can only have one slice and it’s always Pizza Hut. I even heard one company say they were going to do a “Potluck” lunch day, which meant people made food that they brought to work so others could eat. I know, it doesn’t make sense. It’s like they think jingling keys in front of a baby will work on everyone.
Going back to the wedding photographer, if anyone supports her but still scoffs at someone working at McDonald’s or Wal-Mart expecting a living wage, they need to re-evaluate why they think someone doing something as a favor deserves special treatment over someone who is also working just as hard to make a living.
Yesterday, I picked up some items at Wal-Mart. It took them about 15 minutes from the time I first notified them to bring my items out. It was about 5:25 p.m. when I arrived. People were getting off for the day. I didn’t mind waiting. The young man who brought my items out was nice and cordial. I chose that time to pick them up. And even though it’s October, here in Oklahoma, it is still in the 80s which means these people are working hard and can get a little hot.
I just keep wondering why people who are older are more keen on treating those who work in the service industry worse per capita. Not all of them act that way. But like I said, I think it’s because they grew up in an era in which people who worked in service weren’t considered as important as those who worked factory jobs. Believe it or not, there was a time when being an actor or even a fucking professional writer was frowned upon.
We all change our priorities from generation to generation. And while Mr. Chaplin and his people were trying to make a statement of the absurdity of greedy slave-driving workers 90 years ago, some probably thought it wasn’t too bad of an idea. This country was founded and evolved on slave labor. It flourished by cheating people. When they couldn’t whip or use other means of violence to keep workers in line, they developed machines. But machines can’t replace everything, but yet some people expect us to work as machines.
It’s past time we’ve thrown a monkey wrench into those gears.