Skip to comments.The First Four Years Are The Hardest… [open letter to Mitt Romney]
Posted on 09/06/2012 1:21:19 AM PDT by grundle
Dear Governor Romney,
My name is Mike Rowe and I own a small company in California called mikeroweWORKS. Currently, mikeroweWORKS is trying to close the countrys skills gap by changing the way Americans feel about Work. (I know, right? Ambitious.) Anyway, this Labor Day is our 4th anniversary, and Im commemorating the occasion with an open letter to you. If you read the whole thing, Ill vote for you in November.
First things first. mikeroweWORKS grew out of a TV show called Dirty Jobs. If by some chance you are not glued to The Discovery Channel every Wednesday at 10pm, allow me to visually introduce myself. Thats me on the right, preparing to do something dirty.
When Dirty Jobs premiered back in 2003, critics called the show a calamity of exploding toilets and misadventures in animal husbandry. They werent exactly wrong. But mostly, Dirty Jobs was an unscripted celebration of hard work and skilled labor. It still is. Every week, we highlight regular people who do the kind of jobs most people go out of their way to avoid. My role on the show is that of a perpetual apprentice. In that capacity I have completed over three hundred different jobs, visited all fifty states, and worked in every major industry.
Though schizophrenic and void of any actual qualifications, my resume looks pretty impressive, and when our economy officially crapped the bed in 2008, I was perfectly positioned to weigh in on a variety of serious topics. A reporter from The Wall Street Journal called to ask what I thought about the counter-intuitive correlation between rising unemployment and the growing shortage of skilled labor. CNBC wanted my take on outsourcing. Fox News wanted my opinions on manufacturing and infrastructure. And CNN wanted to chat about currency valuations, free trade, and just about every other work-related problem under the sun.
In each case, I shared my theory that most of these problems were in fact symptoms of something more fundamental a change in the way Americans viewed hard work and skilled labor. Thats the essence of what Ive heard from the hundreds of men and women Ive worked with on Dirty Jobs. Pig farmers, electricians, plumbers, bridge painters, jam makers, blacksmiths, brewers, coal miners, carpenters, crab fisherman, oil drillers they all tell me the same thing over and over, again and again our country has become emotionally disconnected from an essential part of our workforce. We are no longer impressed with cheap electricity, paved roads, and indoor plumbing. We take our infrastructure for granted, and the people who build it.
Today, we can see the consequences of this disconnect in any number of areas, but none is more obvious than the growing skills gap. Even as unemployment remains sky high, a whole category of vital occupations has fallen out of favor, and companies struggle to find workers with the necessary skills. The causes seem clear. We have embraced a ridiculously narrow view of education. Any kind of training or study that does not come with a four-year degree is now deemed alternative. Many viable careers once aspired to are now seen as vocational consolation prizes, and many of the jobs this current administration has tried to create over the last four years are the same jobs that parents and teachers actively discourage kids from pursuing. (I always thought there something ill-fated about the promise of three million shovel ready jobs made to a society that no longer encourages people to pick up a shovel.)
Which brings me to my purpose in writing. On Labor Day of 2008, the fans of Dirty Jobs helped me launch this website. mikeroweWORKS.com began as a Trade Resource Center designed to connect kids with careers in the skilled trades. It has since evolved into a non-profit foundation a kind of PR Campaign for hard work and skilled labor. Thanks to a number of strategic partnerships, I have been able to promote a dialogue around these issues with a bit more credibility than my previous resume allowed. Ive spoken to Congress (twice) about the need to confront the underlying stigmas and stereotypes that surround these kinds of jobs. Alabama and Georgia have both used mikeroweWORKS to launch their own statewide technical recruitment campaigns, and Im proud to be the spokesman for both initiatives. I also work closely with Caterpillar, Ford, Kimberly-Clark, and Master Lock, as well as The Boy Scouts of America and The Future Farmers of America. To date, the mikeroweWORKS Foundation has raised over a million dollars for trade scholarships. Its modest by many standards, but I think were making a difference.
Certainly, we need more jobs, and you were clear about that in Tampa. But the Skills Gap proves that we need something else too. We need people who see opportunity where opportunity exists. We need enthusiasm for careers that have been overlooked and underappreciated by society at large. We need to have a really big national conversation about what we value in the workforce, and if I can be of help to you in that regard, I am at your service assuming of course, you find yourself in a new address early next year.
To be clear, mikeroweWORKS has no political agenda. I am not an apologist for Organized Labor or for Management. mikeroweWORKS is concerned only with encouraging a larger appreciation for skilled labor, and supporting those kids who are willing to learn a skill.
Good luck in November. And thanks for your time.
PS. In the interest of full disclosure I should mention that I wrote a similar letter to President Obama. Of course, that was four years ago, and since I never heard back, I believe proper etiquette allows me to extend the same offer to you now. I figure if I post it here, the odds are better that someone you know might send it along to your attention.
“We need people who see opportunity where opportunity exists.”
Blessings to all those with dirt under their fingernails.
Thanks for posting this.
I’m glad you liked it. He did this one compilation episode of “Dirty Jobs” - I think it was called “Dirty Innovators” - which made me think he has a genuine love of capitalism.
May "capitalism" no longer be a dirty word in this country.
I had no clue about Mike’s activism or the website. Total respect tho - his show is great.
Go Mike Rowe!
And to TPTB: Would you please pay attention to this guy?
Thanks for posting it. My daughter LOVES this guy.
I hope Romney reads this and responds to it.
Love the little dis to Obama in the PS.
I’m an employer, and I know how to fix this.
Eliminate minimum wage laws.
All of them.
Allow employers to employ people who are perfectly willing to exchange a low entry-level wage for training that we will be willing to provide. Training that will take the value of said employee’s labor upward in a short period of time.
Oh, and it would get our kids off the couch, and into the workforce, not to mention provide cheaper products for consumers.
Here’s what we will teach them at a minimum: how to get up early in the morning. How to get up early in the morning and show up. How to show up, on time. How to show up, on time, dressed properly to work. How to show up on time, and become part of a team. How to show up on time, become part of a team that works toward goals. How to show up on time, work toward goals, and achieve them. They’ll learn a skill. They’ll learn while their labor value rises along with their wage.
Want welfare-to-work to work? Eliminate minimum wage laws. We’ll train them. Willingly.
I love this guy! He seems to be everywhere over the past few years - if he is not hosting Dirty Jobs he is doing the voice- overs to such shows as Dangerous Catch etc. I think he produces a lot of these shows too.
Obviously a great work ethic and a big heart.
And a very hearty bravo! to Mike Rowe for his yeoman's efforts to remedy this sadly neglected/ridiculed aspect of America !
an old carpenter
Mike Rowe, a man’s man, a ladies man and a great American. He’s witty and funny as heck too. I hate him.
Mike the FORD Guy. . . . .
So, he’s a disgruntled Obama supporter. It took him 4 years to figure out that Obama wants nothing to do with real work.
Before Obama I had plenty of work and had been self-employed for over 10 years earning a good living. After almost 4 years of O it’s been months since I did any real work and I’ve been marketing and calling people like crazy, even written articles to be published in magazines, giving discounts, etc...it’s not like I’m sitting on my can. All of my clients have said they need my services but are being cautious and not spending anymore than they have to until due to the current economy. They are basically waiting to see if Romney will be elected. And The One says our economy is fine. Complete BS. Maybe if I sold Obama swag at the DNC I could make enough to pay my next house payment...sigh
I suppose that many people are like Mr. Cathy of Chick-fil-A, and - tho they may as in Mr. Cathys case have strong conservative values - actively seek to avoid bringing politics into their business. Well, sending open letters to presidential candidates naturally risks associating your business with a political perspective. Mike Rowe does so here, and he did so in 08. But here, at least, he is able to say that what he is saying to one candidate he is willing to say to the other. In his mind its not about politics, IOW, its about doing what he sees as what the country needs.You and I know, of course, that there is a great extent to which trying to keep partisanship out of an endeavor is a fools errand. Because we understand that objective journalists are inherently political. In fact, they politicize everything. Indeed, the defining characteristic of the liberals is that they function primarily as critics of those who actually do things - precisely what objective journalists do. Thats why objective journalists and liberals get on so well.
“How to show up, on time. How to show up, on time. How to show up, on time.”
As a kid I was raised to leave home for appointments and work extra early to allow for that flat tire or other delay and maintained that ethic to this day.
When I recently worked in western ND where the oil boom is happening, it was rumored a trucking company was paying a $500 per month bonus to those that show up on time. Considering the $500 was but a small fraction of their wages and the work ethic of todays young adults, I believed it.
Your plan sounds like what I experienced after joining the Navy in 1978. I learned quickly how to get up early, etc. The Navy sent me to school, where I learned electronics, and gave me the experience (20 years worth) that has carried me through all the changes in my career.
Minimum wage laws were implemented by unions to support wages for unions.
Actually, high schools help keep kids from being available to compete with union labor - another union plan.
Just some more benefits that unions have provided to "We the People."
Perhaps not, but what about all those unemployed millenials living in their childhood bedrooms we always hear about. Starting when I was 16 and before I learned my profession, I worked as a mover, a kiln chipper, a switchman and hostler helper, a lot staker, and a lathe operator. Several of these jobs were not particuarly pleasant, but they brought in money and allowed me to get on with my life.
Have young people today lost the ability and desire to take the sometimes unpleasant entry level jobs that Mike Rowe is talking about?
I hope Mr. Romney responds to the letter to emphasize his focus on new jobs. he did say he was going to do a “Jobs Tour” after elected, unlike 0bama who did an “Apology Tour” after he was elected in 2008.
During the Carter years I took a temporary job at a plant that did “grease extraction”. I had no idea what that meant. They cooked rotten chicken heads, guts, feet and feathers and turned it into a protein powder.
At age 14 I worked 7 days a week at a swimming pool cleaning and handing out baskets all for $5 a week (all the pretty girls in bikinis were a fringe benefit). I also sacked groceries, fixed flats, pumped gas, washed cars, cleared brush, mowed lawns and one summer I worked in hot attics as an electrician’s gofer....got paid $5 a day working from 7 to 6. If I got Saturday afternoon off I was docked $2.50. The only one that paid minimum wage was sacking groceries. Too many kids, and adults, today don’t want to work.
As you know, hard work ain't easy.
I am SO glad you posted this piece- I think Rowe is one terrific fellow. Plus- he does ads for the auto company that didn’t ask for a taxpayer bailout!
Reflecting on Mike Rowe reminds me that the America I knew...was FULL OF MEN LIKE HIM. Chock full- everywhere- they weren’t the exception- they were the rule.
As a gal..I know there are plenty more like me who think- he’s my kind of guy:)
See the link in the post after yours. Mike Rowe lives what he’s saying and was saying it last year too.
I saw that when it first aired. I was surprised they showed it.