Why I Keep Writing About Dickinson, North Dakota, Part I

Why do I keep writing about Dickinson, North Dakota?  I started writing about Dickinson partly because of how I felt.  I felt angry and frustrated.

One of the things that I was angry and frustrated about, was news stories on ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News about how all these workers were moving to North Dakota and making over $100,000 per year.  This was not the case.  Yes, working directly on an oil drilling rig, you can make that much, by working 12 hour shifts, 14 days straight, then 7 days off.  Keep in mind, it is also going to be below 0 degrees Fahrenheit for those 14 days straight.  American males between 18 years and 28 years old, I believe that less than 10% are physically and mentally strong enough to do this.  At one drilling company that I went to, there was a one-way glass window overlooking the reception area, the managers could tell with a quick glance which applications to not even consider.

What the drilling companies were looking for, was a male between 18 years and 28 years old, that looked like they did not have any physical defect, no signs of physical weakness, that looked like they were accustomed to labor.  Probably their favorite candidates were young men that grew up on a farm and had to work.  Their second favorite candidates were probably former high school football players that were linemen.

I don’t think the drilling companies wanted to hire anyone over 32 years old to work on a drill rig if they hadn’t worked on a drill rig before.  Those 12 hour shifts, for 14 days straight: any foot problem, ankle problem, knee problem, hip problem, back problem, elbow problem, shoulder problem, in muscle, joint, or tendon, would appear and just become worse and worse, hour by hour, worse and worse every day.  It was just a safer business practice to try to get people 18 years to 28 years old with no physical defects.

In Dickinson, probably more than half of the out-of-state workers that showed up looking for work were over 30 years old.  They all had the expectation that they were going to get a $23 to $30 per hour job, working 60 to 80 hours per week.  This is what they had heard.  The reality was, that at their age, not being able to work on a drill rig, the jobs available to them paid probably $14 to $23 per hour.

The other thing that the out-of-state workers that showed up in Dickinson did not understand, was that if you were an idiot where you came from, you were still going to be an idiot when you arrived in Dickinson.  If you hadn’t ever been able to do any type of work competently, you were not going to be able to obtain or keep a job in Dickinson either.

There should have been a great big American Red Cross tent in the Wal-Mart parking lot for all of the dazed out-of-state workers who suddenly found that there weren’t any $100,000 per year jobs.

Many, many people had heard false information about work in the oil field in North Dakota and traveled across the United States to get here.  They did not know or understand what it would be like in North Dakota.  It would have been better for everyone involved if more accurate, truthful information would have been provided to all the national networks, stations, news services, and publications.  Better for everyone if it had been done, except for the real estate agents, property managers, and property investors.

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