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The Value of Hard Work

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A common 20th-21st century stereotype is that blue-collar work is meaningless which leaves those who work such jobs feeling hopelessly unappreciated and overworked. Blue-collar work is classified as a working class job that requires manual labor. In his essay “Blue-Collar Brilliance,” UCLA Education and Information Studies Professor Mike Rose uses personal experience and family stories about his mother Rosie Meraglio, and his Uncle Joe Meraglio, to combat the common misconstrued stereotype and effectively argue that in the adult world there are many different variables that define a person. While some believe a person is defined by their level of education or occupational status, Rose’s research on blue-collar workers indicates that all jobs require a great deal of intelligence and hard work to succeed in all aspects of work on the job and should not be undermined based a job title.

Rose illustrates through his mother Rosie, who was a waitress at a local diner, that jobs have specific skills to be learned, and they take time, intelligence, and experience to acquire, as well as have the respect and appreciation of everyday people. At the diner, Rosie must be friendly and personable and have a sense of how the restaurant world works—including a completely separate language known as “restaurant lingo.” There are many hacks and tricks of any kind of trade as Rose states, “A waitress acquires knowledge and intuition about the ways and rhythm of the restaurant business” (245).

Through experience, workers can become accustomed to what the interactions or processes work the best. Besides knowledge, Rosie must also have a good memory, the ability to multitask well, navigation skills, coordination, and patience. All of these skills came to Rosie with on-the-job training. Everyday practice she became more intelligent and proficient on the procedures of her specific job. Throughout his entire essay, Mike calls his mother “Rosie,” and surprisingly only refers to her as “Mother” once or twice. Rose thinks of her a strong independent working woman of dignity who deserves to be called by her name.Therefore, calling his mother by her given name shows the essence of respect that should be provided because of the hard work and determination Rosie and all blue-collar workers perform.

Similarly to Rosie, her brother Joe Meraglio did not let his uneducated background affect him professionally as used his job specific skills to become a successful and intelligent General Motors employee. He worked for GM for 33 years as an assembly line worker, and worked his way into a high rank management position. His career on the assembly line helped prepare him for his new position because he knew how the assembly workers felt and how they worked, so it was easier for him to help solve problems. Subsequently, he redesigned the nozzle on the paint sprayer to eliminate expensive spray and health hazards, and then reduced energy costs on the baking ovens (248).

His background as an assembly line worker and his intelligence made him much more qualified for his management position. In the same way that Rosie developed many interpersonal skills specific to her job as a waitress, Joe also refined many job-specific skills. As an assembly line worker, Joe needed to multitask efficiently and responsibly to make sure his duties were done in a timely manner. However in management Joe must maintain a cool head, know how to budget the company’s money, manage the plant, solve problems, and have good argumentative skills. Many of these skills and the intelligence it took to successfully do a job comes with his experience.

Throughout his essay Rose argues the idea of “Experience vs. Education—which is superior?” Rose advocates for the viewpoint of experience being superior by recounting a comment his Uncle Joe said; “The shop floor provided what school did not; it was like schooling . . . a place where you’re constantly learning” (248). This supports the argument that Rose believes experience is more important over formal education. Education cannot teach nearly as much as the experiences Rosie encountered at the diner or what Joe encountered at GM. Professors can come up with a million and one possible scenarios as to what could happen on the job, but most of the time it is not the education that separates those from the uneducated, it is the experienced that separates those from the inexperienced.

All in all, Rose’s essay poses many interesting questions not just about blue-collar work, but deeper questions about how to treat others in the world around us. All people have some kind of purpose and lesson to bring to the world. It is our job as humans to respect the brilliance of all people and their work if we want a healthy democratic society (254). Having stereotypes, whether they are based on jobs, race, sexual orientation, or background, hurt the essence of a democratic society, because it rules out the possibility to have a discussion or debate.

Stereotypes impose the idea of the class system and that some people are much better than others due to physical characteristic, job titles, etc. Additionally a key component for succeeding in a job is to have experience. People can study all they want, but when it comes down to it, experience will help solve situations more times than education will. Rose successfully argues that all jobs require a great amount of intelligence and hard work to be successful in the workplace and a job title does not reflect how hard a person works or the value of the person as a human being.

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