“Why do you stay at this job you know will never get any better?” The former Passer says, tired of listening to me whine about my job. “You’ve got talent, go out and do something else.”
“Talent will only go so far.” I say and sigh.
Unions are not as big a deal as they once were. In the good days when small children were working the assembly line, everyone worked 14 hour shifts, and the pay was a few cents an hour-yeah, maybe a union was a good idea. Like the Civil Rights Movement, for the most part we like to think that those days are over. Now Unions make the news for being the greedy bastards that are putting a company out of business.
But just as there are still people who don’t like seeing a black man and white woman together, there are still Companies that will pay you pennies an hour if they can get away with it. The New Company is one such shop.
For working 33 hours I got a net paycheck of $22, after they took out for insurance and whatnot. It started out at $174, which is about $5.27 an hour, a tad below the Texas Minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. There’s nothing really new here, all Assembly Line Portrait companies make up their own rules when it comes to payroll.
The New Company has a couple of lawsuits going on and one of them is a Class Action, but it’s only in California. Pity that. Part of the language is as follows-Plaintiff alleges that Defendants have corporate policies, practices and/or customs concerning the setting of mileage reimbursement rates, travel distances, the circumstances under which an employee is eligible for reimbursement for mileage, and the circumstances under which an employee is eligible to receive drive time wages, which are in violation of California law. In addition, Plaintiff asserts that Defendants have violated the law pertaining to the payment of overtime wages and that Defendants have also failed to furnish Plaintiff and Class members with accurate, itemized wage statements. Huh, sound pretty damned familiar to me, too. How do we add the rest of the country to a class action suit?
Over the past few months I worked with a handful of New Company drones and they are a revelation to behold. These folks have not only drank the Kool-aide, they keep a fresh glass in hand at all times and a smiling pitcher nearby. They absolutely love the New Company. Of course, many of them have nothing to compare it with and some of these people are the Chosen Ones making $70 grand a year-so what’s not to love?
Ah well, what’s not to love. This week I am working with one of the Old Company old timers, a twenty-five year veteran in the Assembly Line Portrait trenches. She’s a good Passer. I’m a good Photographer. We have averaged 12 sits a day and sold a few hundred dollars each day. We will be paid 6 percent of the total amount from the end of the week. That’s the biggest thing not to love.
When I started working with the Old Company we were insanely busy. We shot fifty to sixty sittings a day-each with full pose breakdowns. This was exhausting work, on your feet for seven hours, constantly giving directions, constantly listening to people bitch and moan about how long it was taking, and never any breaks. But the money was good. My best paycheck in those glory days was a bit over $2,000-net pay. It’s been a bitter pills to swallow that those days are gone forever and I am now working for pennies on the dollar.
I had lunch with a former Supervisor recently, he is now a lowly photographer like the rest of us, but he has had the chance to work a few good shoots. His paychecks are nothing to write home about either-and he’s no more happy about the situation than I am. There is no light at the end of this tunnel.
A couple of Twitter/Facebook buddies have been telling me to get off by butt and do something. A commenter here told me I should have my own Coupon Shoot, that he had one and made a thousand dollars his first week. I’ve thought about doing a Glamor Shoot where I would team up with a beauty saloon, or a fundraiser with Shriners or Firemen. The only Photo Promotions I’m familiar with are Loss Leaders, where you give away an 8×10 or a 10×13 and hope enough people buy to make it worthwhile. I’ve never done any Photography work where someone calls me up and pays me outright to take their portrait. Stepping out of my comfort zone sounds easy enough, until I actually try to do it.
The New Company might not be so bad, if it weren’t for the fact that I am still working with all the losers from the Old Company. I had this fantasy when we were bought out that things would change. That someone at The New Company would go through the numbers and decided, ah this one from here is good and this one from there is bad-we’ll keep the good and toss the bad. But that hasn’t happened. We have the same damned Managers, PreSellers, and over booked Accounts that we had two years ago. For all I know the same dumbfucks that ran the Old Company into the ground are still running things on our side while they get fat paychecks from the New Company.
And yet, when I sit down and look at what I need to do to run my own business, I am overwhelmed. The journey of thousand miles begins with a single step. But you still need some idea as to where you’re going.