They took R jobs!

BuffaloPundit posted an email he got from a downstate toll collector…

I was reading about the removal of the tolls in the blog, and caught the line about “everybody wins”.

Not everybody.

There’s about 150 of us down here maintaining I-84 that have no idea one way or the other about your toll booths. All we really know for sure is that, because two tolls booths way, way, way upstate were closed…the jobs we’ve held for the last 15 years are likely gone. I’m assuming there’s quite a local residents having served as toll collectors, full and part-time, that are also out of work now.

While I certainly understand your glee, you might consider those of us who have nothing to do with any of this are now facing very uncertain futures.

I, myself, am one…and am a week away from the closing of my “new” home. Pardon me if I don’t join your celebration.

Here’s the thing… collecting tolls requires about half the skill set that it takes to work at Burger King, maybe less since you don’t even need to pretend you like the customer. A good friend of mine used to be a toll collector when he was on break from college and said it was hands down the easiest job he ever had. Other than sucking in exhaust fumes, he’d happily hand out tickets on Christmas day collecting 2.5x his base pay (which was WELL above minimum wage) and barely have to lift a finger, much less exercise a brain cell.

Becoming a toll collector isn’t easy though. You need to have connections. The toll collecting system is much like a fiefdom, because the regional heads have all the hiring/firing power. Another friend of mine couldn’t get in even with a personal recommendation from a long-standing state senator.

Back to those exhaust fumes… that got me thinking that if collecting tolls was a private sector job, how long would it have taken El Spitzer to slap the company with all sorts of fines for unsafe working conditions and dangering the health of these dedicated, hardworking New Yorkers? How is it the government can dictate to a restaurant what type of oil they use to fry your fries, but they let their own employees suck down a carbon monoxide cocktail day after day? Guess it depends on who your boss is.

The bottom line is this – if your job is so disgustingly simplistic that it can easily be replaced by technology, try to fire up those long dormant brain cells and figure out that you’re not going have it for long. No union can help you. Even the government can only keep the lifeline plugged in for so long. If you really like counting axles that much, maybe there’s a career in accounting for you. Enjoy looking at cars all day? Find a dealership and sell them. Do you really love swiping a few cents from person after person that passes you by? You could be a tax collector and/or a state legislator and/or a bum!

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  1. Wow…it must be easy to flame when you’re hiding behind a keyboard.
    There are no tolls on I-84. We are maintenance workers. We do the repairs to the rail, the pavement, the bridges. We cut the grass, ease the flooding, keep the rock cuts clear. We remove the carcasses of the animals that get hit. We’re the first responders at accidents, fires, downed trees. We plow the snow and deice the road.
    We don’t collect tolls…so save your hate for those who do.
    Better yet, grow some testicular fortitude and say it to a collector’s face. You’ll feel better about yourself, I’m sure.

  2. I apologize for mistaking your job, but my post wasn’t directed at you specifically (notice BuffaloPundit didn’t even post a name of who wrote that letter). I do save my criticism for toll collectors, as that’s what my entire post was about. The type of work you do isn’t as easily replaced by a machine.

    But come on – hiding behind a keyboard? I post on my site with my real name. Hardly hiding. And maybe you missed the part about how a good friend of mine was a toll collector? He’d echo all the things I said here.

  3. Very good point Derek, over and over again we see cases where government regulations are passed but the government itself is exempt.

    As for the “first responder” on I-84, he presents the typical government employee attitude. They think they are providing the most crucial and valuable services and that we, the taxpayers, ought to bow down to the public service sector for taking such good care of us. How dare we question the costs!

  4. Gee Derek you work at Praxair, Inc. Isn’t that the old Linde Corp.? They had a lot of hot buildings on that site from making atomic bombs in WWII. A fellow co-worker worked there for 10 years in one of those buildings and he still glows in the dark! Yep, those business’s really looked out for their employees back then. Co-workers’ kids have health problems but that couldn’t be because of the radiation he was explosed to? Nah!

  5. That has exactly what to do with toll collectors? And you seem to forget that development of the atomic bomb was a government project.

  6. So what is the point anyway? I’m sorry, toll collector or Burger King clerk, if a job is available, then somebody has to/can/will fill it. It doesn’t really matter who signs your check. You work on the highways, you’re gonna inhale some carcinogens. You work at Burger King you’re gonna inhale those nasty fumes from the grill. All the people, whether they work the highway, BK, Praxair…. are all gonna take their lunch hour and go smoke nice tasty Marlboro. Who used to sign Joe Camel’s check? And hey, he got a great pension too!

  7. Why exactly do toll collectors or road maintenance workers need to be unionized? Would it not be more cost efficient to outsource these types of jobs to private sector corporations?

    The government could maintain a small crew that would perform oversight that all assigned tasks were completed on time and effectively.

    That’s how it’s done in several of the “boom states” in the south.

    I don’t feel it’s necessary to compensate Mr. Westerfield with a significant pension and health benefits until the day he dies for his performance of manual roadside labor…no matter how well he does it.

  8. The point here isn’t safety conditions or even union/non-union (although that’s certainly a corollary) – it’s what is the value of certain jobs? Should we care when they’re eliminated for the greater good? If we remove toll booths, then the corresponding jobs are going to disappear. Sure, the people who held that job are going to cry about it, but in the end the job would have been eliminated anyways, since a machine can do it far more efficiently and far cheaper. A person doesn’t not have a “right” to a job, they have a skillset and fill a position where there is a need. No need – no job.

  9. BG – Just curious. Do you feel that he is unworthy of a pension and health benefits due to the type of job he held? Are there specific skillsets that do not deserve compensation after performing them for 30 – 40 years?
    Or is this just anger directed at the size of the retirement packgage you believe state workers receive?

  10. Sorry Derek, but have to say once again…disagree
    Your comment on eliminating jobs that a machine can do it “more quickly and efficiently”. We then become a society who forgets how to commuicate, how to show emotion, etc. Teaching school I tell the kids never to forget how to do it the “old fashioned way” too. Machines are not all they are cracked up to be and way overrated. I will settle for a person anyday. Just couldnt hold back any longer… Too much on my mind to even worry about your comments, but had to give me thought.

  11. Amy, we will never get to the point where machines will replace all jobs, so your concerns about forgetting how to communicate are unfounded. Some tasks are just more efficiently performed by a machine. Things like collecting tolls or checking out groceries are tasks, not jobs. The jobs exist only until there’s a better way to perform that task.

  12. Downsizing and outsourcing are facts of life nowadays. I think Geek has a pretty good idea about privatizing maintenance, although that would be a monster contract to maintain. In addition, most of these contracts are written so that they wages paid must meet prevailing rates. THe savings come in the benefits package. Those are left to the discretion of the contractor.

  13. Is it just me, or has everyone here overlooked the failed logic of linking the elimination of two toll booths to the elimination of 15 road maintenance jobs in another part of the state? Does anyone really think that they’re going to stop performing road maintenance because they lost the revenue from two tollbooths?

    How is one connected to the other? Eliminating those two tolls eliminates the jobs of the toll workers for those tolls, but someone will still have to perform road maintenance.


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