"You’re one phone call away from having to drop everything and go to work."

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“At the moment, it feels like I’m sitting pretty with two part-time jobs: I work as a library page in the City of Tacoma, and I’m working with Progress House Association to establish a Clubhouse in Pierce County. But this is very new. I spent the first year and half I was in Washington being unemployed or working any job just to have some money coming in. I’m 59, and looking for work when you’re a 59 year-old woman with more than one degree is not easy. Do I falsify my resume or do I get a job? You can’t have both.

One thing that was clear, and has been clear for a very long time: I will not work a salaried position that doesn’t pay overtime. With around 35 years in the food and beverage industry you learn some things. It only took a few months of working 65-80 hours a week and not getting paid overtime to learn that I never wanted to work as an assistant manager anywhere ever again.

When I worked as a fishmonger at Whole Foods Market they wanted to promote me to associate team leader, a salaried position, but I refused. In the seven years I worked there, I got maximum raises at every evaluation but declined invitations to move up because I knew what those positions were like. The corporation basically owned you. You’re one phone call away from having to drop everything and go to work.  If you are sitting at home eating dinner, if the company calls because they need you, you are going to leave your dinner and go to work. Because that’s your job. It doesn’t matter what it is they need from you—if someone calls in sick, if a delivery is not processed properly, if there is any kind of crisis, any kind of meeting, you are going in.

Aside from that, the corporation also used a sense of being a team player to manipulate salaried workers. As a team leader you had a responsibility to meet the financial goals the corporation set. If you didn’t meet those goals, you wouldn’t get the allowance for giving out raises. No one wants to be the kind of boss that doesn’t give out raises, so if you have a choice between calling in a worker who you’ll have to pay overtime or go in yourself to save that labor cost, then you work. There is the sense that you are being selfless and taking it for the team. That corporate “team culture” was just a way for them to make more money.

It’s important for employers to understand that overextending employees is not in the best interest for any business. The total focus on labor margin is costing them good employees and customers. The person who is overextended makes mistakes. They have a hard time maintaining their patience and their customer focus. The guys in the boardroom don’t need all that money. They don’t have to give up that much, really. When workers are decently paid and feel valued, they are going to make their bosses more money.  I’m not a capitalist, but I understand the basic rules of the game. These people are not playing by the most basic rules of the game. They are shooting themselves in the foot.

It’s a beautiful thing and a rare thing when an employee invests themselves in somebody else’s business. When you have an employee who puts their heart into their job—that’s such a gift. And it ought to be seen as a gift and not something an employer has a right to. “

— Peach, Library Page and nonprofit work