Friday, February 3, 2012

The “99%-ers” of Peñasco!

-by El Gitano Peñasco, "The Peñasco Gypsy"

There are a lot of under-paid workers here in Peñasco, throughout the USA and all around the planet. I’m guessing that ½ or more of the world’s population (billions of souls) are living in one form or another of slavery all the while the ‘beautiful’ people sit back idly as if servitude were something of a forgotten era.

Now I bring this up as I read a very interesting letter this week that has been circulating online and printed in some regional newspapers in the U.S. that was originally written in 1865 and sent to a former slave owner in the USA “From your old servant, Jourdon Anderson”.

As it turned out Mr. Anderson, a recently freed slave (in 1864) was responding to a dispatch he received from his former “Master Colonel P.H. Anderson of Big Spring, Tennessee” (same last name, as it often was back then when freed slaves took the last name of their former masters) who was requesting that Jourdon return from Ohio and again work the plantation.

The response from Jourdon was deeply moving. Then when I read that he told the Colonel that he was “doing tolerably well” in Ohio and that he was earning “twenty-five dollars a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy,—the folks call her Mrs. Anderson,—” etc. I found myself wondering just how much is “twenty-five dollars a month” in today’s dollars (or Pesos)?

So with my handy dandy online guesstimater (“Tom’s inflation calculator”) I keyed in the year “1865”, the amount of “$25.00” (Dollars) and then selected the target year (“2012”) and hit ‘calculate’. The answer that came back was that in 2012 Jourdon, if living today, would need to be paid $625 per month in wages to purchase the same basic goods he and his family meagerly survived on 147 years earlier.

Yes, either then or now those wages were (are) horrifically low. On the surface, for most people, life was admittedly different back then, yet I sensed pride in the letter that Jourdon wrote to his former “Master” informing the good old Colonel that: “Here I draw my wages every Saturday night” (which would have been, in 1865 and based on a 52-year work week, $5.77 per week).

Now $5.77 ‘per week’ would mean that Jourdon’s ‘counterpart’ (today) would have to be paid about $144 (per week) to ‘break even’, so to speak. Just for our pondering purposes, if that $144 per week was spread over a 40-hour work week the worker today would toil for a whopping $3.60 (USD) per hour.

So just how much better are wages today in Peñasco for hard working folks like Jourdon? First, in some U.S. States for example an employed waitress/waiter, under the ‘law’ and excluding any potential ‘tips’ is paid a minimum wage of around $2.30 per hour; in 1865 that was the equivalent of $0.09 (nine cents) per hour or $3.60 for a forty-hour work week (a lot less than Jourdon was earning at $5.77 per week, although I’m sure Jourdon put in more than 40 hours each week).

And all that brings me to the many “99%-ers” in the ‘Shining City’ by the sea. With the minimum wage here being about $4.70 per day or $28.20 per week (based on a six day work-week) this means, literally, a laborer, a maid, the waiter or store clerk etc. in Peñasco is paid significantly less than what someone like Jourdon earned a century and a half ago in 1865 as a former slave!

For those who might not have understood what I’ve illustrated and especially to the ‘employers’ paying minimum wage here (everywhere) look at it this way: In today’s dollars, Jourdon would be paid, and excluding the additional (on top of his pay) “victuals and clothing” $625.00 per month.

And yet many Pablos and Marias, right here in beautiful Peñasco, are often only paid a mere minimum wage of $122.00 per month for their time/labor, etc. without any of the additional ‘perks’ that Jourdon received. There is something terribly wrong with that ‘picture’ (here/everywhere)!

As such, and as ‘consumers’ and good people, let us all make sure we are treating everyone we deal with--- whether they’re working at the restaurant, in an office, at a taco stand, the clinic, at the grocery store (or wherever)--- with a great deal of dignity, kindness and respect.

And should we once in a while deal with a person who may not be very motivated or in a super great mood let’s remember what is going on in their lives and when applicable, regardless of their ‘mood’ let us ‘tip’ a little better as well!

The money is earned to be sure and desperately needed. And in case you don’t know how much so and how thankful most Mexican workers are, just ‘do it’ and watch them clutch the ‘tip’ in their hand while crossing themselves. And you can be assured you, too, will be included in their prayers of thanks and appreciation!

A Gypsy can always dream!

¡Viva Puerto Peñasco y México!

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -Mark Twain