A teenager named Tommy entered the print shop downtown. He was looking for a summer job now that school was out. The secretary met him with a smile and said the owner would see him momentarily. Tommy sat on a chair in the office. There was a newspaper on the chair next to him. The headline said, “Unemployment for Inner-City Youth at 20-Year High.” “Great,” Tommy thought. “No wonder no one is hiring me.”
The front door opened and a man walked in. He looked at Tommy and said, “Can I help you?” Tommy said, “I’m looking for a job.” The man asked, “What can you do?” Tommy answered, “I can clean, sweep the floor, do all the janitorial work, and do it well.”
The man said, “Well, I don’t really care how neat and tidy the place looks. But I’ll tell you what. I’ll pay you two bucks an hour for ten hours a week. Come in the last two hours of the day, what do you say?” Tommy looked him in the eye and said “two twenty-five.” The man smiled and said, “It’s a deal, kid. Be here at 3 o’clock.”
Tommy thanked him and walked back outside. He was thinking that $2.25 per hour was not that much money, but then again it was better than nothing. He tried a few more businesses with no success. So he went back to the print shop at ten minutes till three.
The boss was on the phone so the secretary showed Tommy where the broom, dust pan, and other cleaning supplies were. Tommy spent an hour cleaning two bathrooms and an hour cleaning up the press room. Two pressmen were cleaning up their machines for the night, and they talked with Tommy about where he was going to school and what he wanted to be when he grew up.
This went on for a couple of weeks. The shop was looking steadily cleaner and more organized, when one of the pressmen said, “Hey Tommy, would you like to see how to feed a press?” Tommy said “sure” and the guy showed him a few tricks like how to break a ream of paper quickly to keep downtime to a minimum.
The two pressmen had really taken a liking to Tommy and taught him as much as they could. In a few more weeks, Tommy was running a small printing press. He could ink it up, change the plates, load the paper, align the run and go. The boss increased his hours to 20 and gave him an additional 50 cents per hour.
When the summer was over, the business held a party for Tommy. The secretary brought a cake, the boss brought in burgers, and they all wished him luck in his studies. The boss said “Tommy, next summer come here first,” and handed him a $20 bonus. Tommy left smiling, thinking what a great experience it had been and a nice bunch of friends he had made.
But wait… this is only fantasy. The government said the business had to pay Tommy a minimum wage far beyond what the owner was willing to pay. There was also the trouble of paperwork… liability insurance… Social Security and Medicare withholding… so Tommy left the print shop without an offer. The boss just swept the floor himself. And still the newspaper said, “Unemployment for Inner-City Youth at 20-Year High.”