Do you consider yourself to be “Working Class” ?

by Kristina on April 9, 2012 · 4 comments

dog manHello DINKS.  Yesterday a colleague of mine at our bank branch made a comment about “working class” people.  I wasn’t personally offended by the comment, but it did make me start thinking about our society and how people view each other in different professions. Is it possible that in 2012 we are actually still living in a society defined by classes?

My colleague looked out of a window at our bank branch at the traffic flow on the street and said “What are all of these people doing out in the middle of the day? Don’t they have jobs?” My immediate response to him was “They may be on vacation or they may be shift workers who are on their way to work or just finishing their shift.”

The concept of shift work is not foreign to me. I grew up a household where one parent worked rotating weekly shifts in a factory and the other parent worked 9 to 5 in an office.  The thought didn’t even occur to my colleague that there is an entire working world outside of a 9 to 5 work week.  He comes from a family where both parents work 9 to 5 in an office and people who work in factories, retail stores, and other “blue collar” positions are in a class below them.

My father worked rotating shifts in a factory for 30 years.  He earned a very good salary that supported a family with two young children who grew up to both graduate from university.  The medical and dental benefits were paid by the company which came in helpful when my sister and I needed braces to straighten our teeth or medication when we were sick.  Overtime was always a paid option at a rate of time and a half for employees who worked in the factory.  If my father chose to work on the weekends he was paid overtime at a rate of double his normal hourly wage.

My mother worked 9 to 5 in an office.  It is very possible that the working environment was more pleasant in an office environment than it was working in a factory, but the benefits were not necessarily comparable. My mother often put in extra hours at the office in hopes of advancing her career, but she was never compensated for her overtime. In your opinion what differentiates a “Blue Collar” worker from a “White Collar” worker? Maybe it is the annual salary, maybe it is the place of work, or the working environment, or maybe it is determined based on the extra employee benefits.

The concept of different classes is slightly more complicated than the difference between an office building and a factory.  People often determine classes based not only on our place of work and our type of work, but also our annual salary and our position title.  I think that it is very offensive (not to mention extremely rude) to call someone “working class”. If we all have jobs and if we all work aren’t we all “working class”?

Photo by Matt512

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 GB @ In Budgets We Trust April 9, 2012 at 3:36 pm

I don’t really know what the distinction is for “working class” anymore. I just moved from a manufacturing job (working in shifts) where I made $85,000+ with pay and overtime, to a 9 to 5 job where I make *significantly* less. More than 70% of my colleagues at the last job were engineering graduates, and the other 30% were recruited bartenders, accountants, etc. We all did the same job at the same difficulty level and were promoted by quality of work instead of quality of education. The bartending hires were my supervisors and trainers so it wasn’t like they were just there to pad the department with more bodies.

I think the perception of “working class” used to be based on perceived level of aptitude/education, but those lines are blurring fast as the economy is forcing highly educated graduates to take on jobs they might not have considered otherwise.

2 Emily @ evolvingPF April 11, 2012 at 1:02 am

I thought the distinction between blue collar a white collar was supposed to be the physical exertion of the work. Like, if you do manual labor and sweat, you can’t wear a white collar because it will get stained and dirty. I possibly just made that up.

I agree with you that anyone who isn’t independently wealthy is “working class.” Although I do think class distinctions are still present in the US. I mean, all this recent 1% business alone…

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