December 19, 2010

Feeling Galtish on Sunday

Justin Katz

Somehow, I've fallen behind on everything, in the past couple of weeks, so I've been trying to catch up a little this weekend. I've also been sorting through spreadsheets, trying to figure out the fluctuations of millions of dollars flowing into Tiverton's school district.

While I had Microsoft Excel open, I thought I'd relax the mind and run some numbers inspired by a contentious meeting at the day job, on Friday afternoon. How, I wondered, would the labor numbers break out if one calculated all of the real costs of a typical construction gig with the amount billed to the client? The upshot is that — depending on the terms of employment and benefits — a carpenter's salary can take a big hit when once transportation, tools, and some other considerations are factored in.

Frankly, strolling through two years of unemployment payments doesn't compare all that unfavorably — and it tends to be a lot less strenuous, and certainly warmer, this time of year. Of course, that thought leads to the next: Layer in welfare, food stamps, RIte Care, housing assistance, and so on, and the fact comes into stark relief that, as a friend of mine is fond of putting it, all I really need is a library card. All the time I could spend reading and writing were I to decide just to step off the down escalator that I'm struggling to walk up.

That can't be a conclusion to which members of a healthy society would be inclined to come.

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To clarify your thinking, the "prevailing wage" for Carpenters is $52.33. The rate is hourly and combines wages and benefits. That is about what insurance companies allow per hour of carpenter's time. Have you noticed how many contractors now have "insurance work" on their trucks, i.e. "fire damage", "water damage", "mold remediation", etc. I am not sure if the insurance rate covers the contractors P&O, or taxes.

As the government sets the "prevailing wage" it is usually identical to union wage. That is why many contractors will not take public work. Their workers will probably not understand why they are paid one wage this week, and a "market rate" the next.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at December 19, 2010 12:53 PM

$52.33 an hour for a carpenter. Then the business owner doubles that so he can make a profit. So we have $104.66/ hr to hire a carpenter.

That's about what I've paid every time I've paid anybody to do any work at my home or business. Plus materials.

Posted by: michael at December 20, 2010 7:30 AM

I'll admit that I'm being taken advantage of, with my remuneration, but you're being ripped off Michael. Make a few phone calls next time, and you'll cut your bill in half, easily.

Posted by: Justin Katz at December 20, 2010 7:57 AM

My place has a few minor plumbing issues I'd like taken care of, but the rate from the companies who send folks out is a bit insane. I'm hoping to call a few places up and see if I can make an offer for moonlighting to someone who I feel confident about.

I'll pay the extra money for the ability to try out different folks, but it would be silly to pay $300 for a nicely-detailed truck every time I need a leak fixed.

Posted by: mangeek at December 20, 2010 11:04 AM

The best thing to do is use word of mouth and recommendations/references from friends to find someone that can do work on the site. I have a plumber, carpenter and electrician friend that I can call up and get work done. Sure, if it's an emergency I might need to call one of the pretty truck companies, but if it's something that can wait a weekend or two, having a couple friends in a rolodex can save a lot of money.

Posted by: Patrick at December 20, 2010 3:51 PM

Who doesn't have those moments of scratching your head, having just barely made payroll, or paid the insurance, taxes or fuel bill, and wondering what the heck you are doing working 60+ hours a week and struggling financially while so many of the unemployed have no intention of taking a job until their 99 weeks run out?

Contractors and those they employ, or used to employ, are getting hit in the pocketbook by many unlicensed contractors out there who are willing to take on jobs for much less money than the licensed contractor can do it for. That's because the unlicensed contractor doesn't pay for liability insurance or worker's compensation insurance, pays no employer taxes, and operates in an "under the table" world.

But what about our role in this? Do we want to pay more if we can get the work done for less? Do I hire and pay this contractor more because he is responsible and follows the law, or do I hire the one who doesn't and pay 1/3 to 1/2 less and hope that neither he nor his worker gets hurt on my property?

Posted by: riborn at December 20, 2010 7:31 PM

mangeek- Why do you not try learning how to fix the leak yourself? Certainly you do not think that effort is beneath you or beyond you. Better than finding a moonlighter you deem worthy, you could hire yourself.

Justin- There is a wide gulf between acceptance of wages and "going galt". I think you know them so I won't waste the time or space listing them. Recently, I have seen people gathering fire wood on the sides of public roads. Some are in banged out vehicles loading sawn pieces of wood likely cut by Verizon or Cox service crews. Some are people using shinier trucks and shinier chainsaws. It tells me that a whole lot of people are getting back to the basics of things. Getting things with their own labor instead of purchasing. Mangeek wants to cheap down the services he still wants to acquire. You still want to do the same from government.

Posted by: David S at December 20, 2010 7:46 PM

Out here in Arizona you can hire a good carpenter, with his own tools, for
9.00 an hour..down from $12.00
a few years ago. They hang out at Lowes or Home Depot

One advantage of living in a Red State, right-to-work state

Most of these guys live in 1960s mobile homes, that can be bought for $800 to $1200 all day long

Posted by: Sammy at December 20, 2010 11:05 PM

Sounds great, unless you are the carpenter.

Posted by: michael at December 21, 2010 7:20 AM
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