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Trade Salary Standards


Hi folks,

I’m not “in the trade”, just a long-standing hobbyist with occasional
sales just to prove something-or-other to myself. However, I know a
woman here in Victoria, BC, whose skills at fabricating precious
metal jewelry, stone-setting, and enamelling are truly awe-inspiring
to me, very wide-ranging and of highest standard. She’s been working
professionally both at her home studio and in the establishments of
other folks as a benchworker for many years. At one point she was
wondering whether to return to hiring herself out again as the
self-employed home-based configuration was being economically
uncertain and also just lonely. I asked her what the going rate for
that work is and, based on her considerable experience, she said it
might be around $15/hour. I was utterly floored! OK, that was 2 years
ago. maybe it is $18/hr by now, or even $20. But guys who push
lawnmowers around here make much, MUCH more than that. How much skill
and training does it take to cut grass? Even if they have to "invest"
in their lawnmowers and string trimmers, it doesn’t come close to the
investment in tools, equipment, and materials needed to run a jewelry
shop. Lots of other trades also exceed the going rate for
benchworkers; plumbers, electricians, carpenters. But those are more
in the line of necessity.

This raises questions in my mind, to which I will refer only briefly,
as I don’t feel like ranting. Jewelry and well-tended lawns are not
necessities. They are luxuries. But jewelry, as it tends towards the
high end, becomes a signal of status and power as well as mere common
respectability. Almost anyone can have a tidy lawn, even if he has to
cut it himself. But not everyone can buy or make a flashy diamond or
gold ring. What is the point of displaying high status if there ain’t
someone of low status nearby to writhe in envy??? I mean, without an
underclass, where’s the thrill in being a member of the elite
classes? It just always puzzles me why the creative (for want of a
better word) community in general; (painters, jewellers, musicians,
cooks) have agreed to fill the role of underclass?

Don’t believe me? Here’s a multiple choice test question.

Mrs. Smith said her daughter is going out with a ____________

Which word is most likely to fill in the blank?

A) Wealthy
B) Well-built
C) Starving

So, OK, I get it that there is more innate satisfaction in creating
beautiful things than there is in pushing a noisy machine around on
a hot day - but still, what’s up with this weird disparity?

I’ll leave it at that for now. But that’s my puzzled take on “trade
salary standards.”

MARTY, in Victoria BC, where Summer is either a vague memory or
unverifiable rumour.