I work at an industrial site, far outside of Dickinson, North Dakota. The rules on this site, are what you would find at a mining operation or a refinery: Heavy equipment has the right-of-way; hard hat, safety vest, eye protection, safety toe shoes are required at all times; no visitors or non-employees are allowed on the site at any time.
There are many restrictions, rules, and procedures on this site that the workers here take for granted, but most people would be unaware of, such as absolutely no photography or video recording on site, 10 mph speed limit on site, and all vehicles must come to a complete stop and wait when a crane is lifting something, even if it is 100 feet away from the roadway. All of this is just one of the reasons why visitors or non-employees are not allowed on site, they would be unaware of all these restrictions and rules, or perhaps they would be non-compliant with some of these restrictions, rules, and procedures.
This Friday, one of the equipment operators on this site asked me for a favor, would I take his pay check, and hold it for someone who was going to pick it up at the site entrance later today? This equipment operator works at the far back of the site, and I work at the front of the site near the entrance.
This equipment operator gave me his pay check, and he described to me the vehicle that the guy would be driving that was coming to pick up this check, he did not tell me this person’s name, he just gave me a vehicle description. I was trying to get better, more detailed clarification of what this vehicle was or who this person was, but the equipment operator did not give me much more details, as if he didn’t care that much.
Within about ten minutes, a truck matching the make, model, color, and special ZR71 edition, fitting the equipment operator’s description, arrived at the site entrance. Just one thing didn’t match his description, this truck didn’t have a light or light bar on top. I talked to the driver, and he said that he came to the site, looking for a job.
I was irritated and annoyed that I almost gave this equipment operator’s pay check to the wrong person, because all he gave me was a description of the vehicle, and within ten minutes a vehicle matching his description arrived at the site entrance. I looked at this paycheck to see how the equipment operator had endorsed it, to see if just anyone could cash it, if I gave it to the wrong person. The back of this check was endorsed, “Pay to the order of xxxxxx “, and I could not decipher the person’s name. At least this check wasn’t merely endorsed with a signature only, in which case the wrong person might be able to cash or deposit this check.
The amount of this check was $2,500, which irritated and annoyed me further, this was too large an amount to be so nonchalant and careless with it. The employee pay stub was still attached to this check, showing that this pay check was for the one week pay period 9/23 to 9/30, the rate of pay, the amount of hours worked, and the gross pay before any taxes were taken out was $3,500.
I thought to myself, no wonder this equipment operator acted like he could not care less about this pay check, he gets paid $3,500 per week. This $2,500 check was no big deal to him, he would get another one for the same amount or more next Friday.
I thought about this some more, $3,500 per week, equals $14,000 per month. $3,500 per week, times 50 weeks, equals $175,000 per year. That is a lot of money. That is much more money than teachers, police officers, nurses, college professors, engineers, CPAs, and the majority of attorneys get paid. This is even more money than many family practice medical doctors get paid.
I have written in previous blog posts, that despite what newspapers and television news stations report, I have only ever met about four people who made over $100,000 per year working in the oil field in North Dakota. This equipment operator, isn’t really working in the oil field, this is an industrial site, not the oil field. At another industrial site that I worked at in North Dakota in 2015, a friend of mine made this same hourly pay as this equipment operator.
The friend of mine that worked at the same industrial site as me in North Dakota in 2015, and this equipment operator at the industrial site where I work now, though their weekly pay checks can be as high as $4,000 per week, and they can make as much as $16,000 per month, they usually do not make over $100,000 per year, due to project completion, winter work shut down, and being laid off from work.
Something that I think about, is why do people who graduate near the top of their class in high school, go to college for four to six years like CPAs, engineers, and attorneys, or people who do things that we are supposed to value in society like teachers, nurses, or police officers, why do they get paid less than half of what this equipment operator gets paid? Part of the answer, is that in North Dakota, where the majority of people are not very educated or work in a profession, they do not value education or professional occupations.