M’hijito remarked that Bila the Painter will earn more in two days, painting the exterior woodwork on the downtown house, than either M’hijito or I bring home in a week. And one thing you have to say about painting: you can’t offshore it to India!
On the other hand: what does it really mean to earn more in two days as a skilled tradesman than a white-collar worker earns in a week?
Well… Today we broke another heat record for May 18. By midafternoon, thermometers on M’hijito’s patio, my patio, and SDXB’s patio all registered 109 degrees. That’s in the shade. A hundred-and-nine-degree day is, in a word, HOT. Bila earns his living climbing up and down ladders, hauling paint around, and slathering or spraying the stuff everyplace he can get it. And “everyplace he can get it” is as likely to be in the full sun as in the shade.
M’hijito took a paid day off today to dance the Workman Waltz. If Bila takes a day off, being self-employed, he doesn’t get paid. At all.
The incredibly complex antique Baldwin lock did not remove readily from the door that Bila planned to sand and refinish. So we had to call the locksmith who specializes in museum pieces, and wait an hour on him. M’hijito and I went to breakfast in the interim. When we got back, Bila was sitting in the front yard gazing into space: the locksmith had yet to show up. If M’hijito and I unavoidably kill a little time on the job, we generally get paid. If Bila wastes time on the job, it’s time that will likely make him late to the next job: again, time he doesn’t get paid for.
Bila pays for the paint out of his fee. I’d guess he’ll buy about $200 worth of Dunn-Edwards’s best.
That brings his pay down to about what I bring home for two weeks—after a furlough day is taken out.
But he still hasn’t bought health insurance, paid self-employed FICA, ponied up other state and federal taxes, paid for the gas to run his truck, put money aside in an IRA…. A fair estimate is that all those costs would consume about 40% of his after-paint gross.
$950 fee – $200 for paint = $750
$750 – 40% = $450, approximate net pay for about two days’ work
Supposing Bila actually got five days of work a week (a big supposition, especially in the present economy): $225/day x 5 = $1125/week, net
My take-home pay for a week without a furlough day is about $760. So, if Bila works very, very hard, he earns significantly more than I do. But very, very hard is the operative term:
• He’s doing a back-breaking, mind-numbing job outside in 109-degree heat.
• To earn enough to support his family, he has to do it five to seven days a week.
• If he can’t get a job on a given day, he earns nothing.
• If he’s sick or hurt, he earns nothing.
• Any vacation time he chooses to take is unpaid.
There’s a lot of paint splattered on Bila’s side of the fence, so it’s hard to tell what color the grass is over there. But I’ll bet it’s not any greener than mine!
Nothing like a 109-degree day to make us wage slaves appreciate what we have.