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by William H. Benson

August 30, 2001


     The Labor Day weekend approaches–a welcome relief.  It means that summer is about over, and school has begun.  Labor Day honors the nation’s working people, sometimes called the laborforce or the workforce.

     In the U.S. in 2001 there are about 140 million workers–some 75 million men and 65 million women.  Just over half of those 140 million people have white-collar jobs and the remainder is divided between blue-collar, service, or farm workers.  At any given point in time, a generous percentage of those 140 million derive much satisfaction and happiness from their work, a smaller percentage are miserable, and the remainder (probably the majority) just consider their work a job that gives them a paycheck that pays their bills. 

     Bill O’Reilly, an opinionated television commentator, recently wrote a best-selling book entitled, The O’Reilly Factor.  In his chapter “The Job Factor”, he writes, “But since work is a fact of life and can also be rewarding, we’re better off when we find the job that’s best for us.  It’s too big a chunk of your lifetime to let it go to waste.  If we’re unfulfilled at work, it’s harder to be a happy, generous person.”

     He further says that a worker must identify his or her true talents and then find out how to use them to convert their time and energy and work into a paycheck.  He writes, “I don’t care how old you are.  It is never too late to use the gifts God gave you.  Not many things are sadder–or more darned annoying–than someone who says, ‘I wish I had started my own woodworking business’ (written a book, moved to a farm, gone back to nursing school, etc., etc.)  Do it now!”

     In the September edition of “National Geographic”, I noticed a sobering statistic.  “One-fifth of the full-time jobs in the U.S. pay eight dollars an hour or less.  Filling most of these jobs are the 40 percent of the workforce who have no education beyond high school.”

     Forty percent!  In other words, 40 percent of that 140 million are stuck where they are, unless through sheer will power and determination and a measure of luck they crawl up the payscale.  Returning to school is the better option, for it is there workers can improve their reading, writing, math, and technology skills.  It is a jolting fact of life in America in the 21st century that those who refuse to further their education (due to choice or circumstances) are forced into work that pays little.

     In that same “National Geographic” article, a school counselor named Mel Riddile said, “Computers are important, but not as important as literacy.  The kids have to be able to read or they can’t even use computers.  Here we spell “hope” r-e-a-d.  It’s no guarantee, but it’s essential.”

     Also, Bill O’Reilly suggests that getting along with others in the workplace is a necessary skill.  In a don’t-do-as-I-do-but-do-as-I-say sermon, he argues for an agreeable and conciliatory and non-combative attitude in the workplace.  Throughout his career, he dealt very poorly with what he calls “the toxic people” he met along the way–a big mistake.  He fought them with a passion.

     He says, “Do not do what I did in the workplace.  It’s not worth it.  I’ve survived and even prospered in the world of TV news, but that’s a miracle, believe me.  I made my life a thousand times harder than it had to me.” 

     However, he noticed that the truly brutal and toxic people in the workplace do make life so miserable for those around them, but that they do not last long.  Their supervisors either fired or demoted them.  “Hitler had a run of about fifteen years; the junior Hitlers of the world usually get much less.  Even though the occasional animal does sustain material success, ruthless is not the way to go.”

     School plus skills plus a job equals a paycheck–the formula for success and happiness in America.  Enjoy a well-deserved day off on Monday.