Before we left Montana to move to Spokane, my father and mother had established themselves in the Spokane area. My father had done some preliminary investigation by going down to the Electrical Union Hall to enquire about work and wages.
The Union people told him that electrical work in Spokane was good and that the wages were $6.01 an hour. My father said; “I don’t know what the 1 cent is for; maybe postage.”
By the time we moved my father had passed away. When we arrived in Spokane the wages were about 30% higher than they had been in Montana. Within a week of moving to Spokane, I had been called to work. Right away I was in on some of the large construction jobs in the Spokane area. One of the jobs required someone to install light fixtures on a large commercial building. It was around late October/early November – early winter, so many of the guys were reluctant to do the job. I gladly volunteered to do it as it was a cinch compared to 40 degrees below zero in Montana.
The other guys stood inside and watched me work. I believe they thought that at some point I would freeze and they would have to come pry me off the ladder, bring me inside, and thaw me out. That was never necessary.
However the situation reminded me of a story I heard about construction in New York City. The office workers were looking out the window watching the construction workers outside in the cold. They made a sign which the hung in the window for the men outside to read. It said; “It is 75 degrees in here.”
The workers outside promptly made a sign and put it up for the inside office workers to read. It said; “$12.00 per hour out here.”
It is pretty common that office workers get a significantly smaller pay rate than construction workers, hot or cold. Even in the mild temperatures here in Spokane that is true.
On the other hand (there are 5 more fingers), it is also true that office workers work more steady than construction workers. In Montana we always counted on a slowdown in work in the winter months.