The underlying message of most coverage: what a shame that Owens was working behind a cash register.
Others rightly argued that there’s nothing wrong with having a job.
“Owens was seen a few days ago working in a Clifton, New Jersey, Trader Joe’s by a shopper who recognized the actor, then was compelled to take a photo of him. The customer, Karma Lawrence, told the Daily Mail it made her feel bad that after all those years on ‘The Cosby Show,’ Owens ‘ended up as a cashier,'” wrote Andy McDonald at HuffPost.
“Fox News and Daily Mail chose to not only report this but also, in the view of many, basically shame a man for having a ‘regular’ job and framing it with the negative connotation of ‘bagging groceries,'” McDonald added.
Twitter exploded. Here are a sampling of responses:
- Dayna Steele, a congressional candidate, tweeted, “‘Geoffrey Owens still acts occasionally, works at Trader Joe’s, and ministers to others in need, setting a good example for people everywhere. What a great guy.’ That’s what
@FoxNews should have said.”
- Emmy nominee Pamela Adlon, star of the FX series Better Things, listed all the jobs she’s held between gigs, noting, “Your visibility as an actor never goes away. But the money sure does.”
- Actress Halle Berry wrote in honor of Labor Day and folks like Owens: “I’m just so sad to hear that an American felt the need to ‘expose’ a man for working hard. I wish there were more people with as much integrity as #GeoffreyOwens.”
Why should someone be ashamed of working a service gig when it pays better than a lot of other so-called professional work these days? (Looking at you, university adjunct teacher system.) PayScale’s data show average hourly wages of $16 at the company, and the benefits aren’t bad either.
Per the Trader Joe’s career page:
- We pay well. To keep Crew developing and incentivize exceptional performance, we review Crew twice a year. On average, Crew have the potential to receive a 7%-10% annual increase.
- We also give all Crew Members a 10% discount on all products available in our stores.
- We provide Crew Members with a great retirement plan. Trader Joe’s currently contributes 10% of annual salary to eligible Crew Members, and the plan allows Crew to save pre-tax dollars towards their own retirement. You are making an investment in us—we are making an investment in and for you.
- We offer medical, dental and vision plans to eligible Crew Members at a low cost (currently $75/month).
- We offer paid time-off that increases with tenure. The money in the account belongs to you as soon as you accrue it. You earned it.
Trader Joe’s gets pretty good press as an employer, too: Forbes recently ranked them among their top employers in America, selecting the company as one one of the best places to work for new grads, for women and for diversity.
Doug Rauch, Trader Joe’s former president, “mentioned the importance of empowering employees to do what’s right for the customers and for the company. Having employees’ voices matter, he said, is important to keeping them engaged,” wrote Zeynep Ton and Sarah Kalloch in the Harvard Business Review.
The Shame Cycle: May It Be Short-Lived
After he started trending, Owens was a little embarrassed by the attention he received for working a name-tag job. But he didn’t have to spend too much time feeling down.
“I was really devastated, but the period of devastation was so short,” Owens said on Good Morning America Tuesday morning. “My wife and I started to read these responses from literally all over the world. Fortunately, the shame part didn’t last very long.”
“There is no job that is better than another job,” Owens said. “It might pay better, it might have better benefits, it might look better on a résumé and on paper. But, actually, it’s not better. Every job is worthwhile and valuable.”
Oh, and not that it matters that much (because we’re not about school-shaming either here), but Owens is a cum laude Yale graduate who teaches Shakespeare and who’s been working steadily in Hollywood since 1985, according to his IMDB profile. He even got offered a new gig from Tyler Perry this week, as a result of all this weird publicity.“There is no job that is better than another job,” said Geoffrey Owens. “It might pay better, it might have better benefits, it might look better on a résumé and on paper. But, actually, it’s not better. Every job is worthwhile and valuable.”Click To Tweet
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