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Old 10-15-2019, 08:53 AM   #31
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Old 10-15-2019, 08:55 AM   #32
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AFTER THE SHOW

Okay, time for me to get on my soapbox.

The first thing you need to know about this episode is some background information. In 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the ironically named "Fair Labor Standards Act". This law marked the first legislation to establish the minimum hourly wage, but it also created what came to be known in America as sheltered workshops--manufacturing houses specifically set aside for people with disabilities that were intended to prepare disabled workers for jobs in mainstream society. Such workshops were deemed exempt from having to pay workers this minimum wage; piecework wages remained the norm. Workers within these shops were also prohibited from forming unions so they did not have access to the protections offered to non-disabled workers.

Why is this relevant to a 1998 case? Because, in 2019, this minimum wage exemption is still legal! Sheltered workshops still exist in the U.S., and they are still permitted to pay employees far below the minimum wage. I know this because I did four years hard time in one of those workshops. They claim that they strive to prepare their workers for mainstream jobs, but what I observed over that time was workers practically aging in place. Most often, I saw that the employees in my shop had been doing the same menial tasks for as long as 30 years with little variation; they did not receive chances for advancement, training for jobs outside of the shop, and many went their entire time there without even the slightest pay raise.

I should note that I am using the word pay very loosely here. The hardware-sorting job in my story was one such job offered at my shop; it paid $0.02 per bag and did not cover most people's bus fare on their best days. Minimum wage may not be easy to live on, but try living on the peanut-dust wages that this place paid. I was fortunate enough to have family that I could stay with; most lived in some type of halfway house and were forever stuck on public assistance.

I later did some additional research, and found that I was not alone. I went online and found several stories of workers stagnating in sheltered workshops. One case told a story about an Ohio workshop where the workers worked full shifts and received as little as $0.41 per hour. Another Illinois workshop actually went so far as to break the law paying its workers in McDonald's gift cards. For an organization that is supposed to promote independence for the disabled, they have rendered many people like me permanently dependent on a struggling social security system. Whatever the intention behind sheltered workshops might have been, the system has clearly been abused.

The episode itself was based on a few friendly allies that I had and one serious enemy. The boss character of Ron Geseppi was largely based on the most stubborn, obnoxious, arrogant, brainless, heartless, gutless, BLEEP of a boss I ever had. I won't go so far as to name him directly; I usually just refer to him as "lips" because the man definitely knew how to make a speech. The James Mackleroy character was a combination of myself and another employee who thought for a long time that the workshop was the only place that would want him after several frustrating years of looking for work. The character of Carol Shanon was based on a friend I had at the workshop who was sympathetic to my cause until "lips" let her go for no apparent reason; this would be the major incident that convinced me that this was not where I wanted to be. I want to say that the embezzlement part of this story is entirely fictional, but frankly, I heard so many stories of "lips" getting into shouting matches with employees while he was their that I just don't know what happened behind closed doors. I never saw "lips" again after that public firing incident so I don't know what happened to him; in my dreams he gets hit by buses a lot. Thus, this writer's revenge episode.

I had a devil of a time deciding on songs for this episode. In the end, I chose Jimi Jamison's "I'm Always Here" (otherwise known as the "Baywatch" theme) to start the episode because it set the stage for the illusion that this workshop was actually rescuing people. Also, given what I knew of "lips", I figured he would probably be obsessed with the sleaziest, cheesiest show ever created, i. e. "Baywatch". I chose Duncan Sheik's "Barely Breathing" because this was ultimately a song about unmasking. Everyone knew what Ron was ultimately about, and nobody had any delusions anymore.

For what its worth, I am in a better place now. I kept in touch with that friend, and she saw my fan fiction pieces. That got me an opinion column with a local newspaper which eventually got me noticed by a government agency where I currently work managing a database and occasionally contributing articles to that company's social media. What's more, after finally finding someone who believed I could do more, I decided to continue my education and pursue a degree in Mathematics. I completed this degree last August. I don't know if I would call myself a genius, but I figure that if you get a math degree, nobody can call you stupid.

Lastly, in case there is any confusion about how I felt about this guy, I will leave you with this clip from "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation": www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SXB1hvxnzw

And now my rant is done.
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