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The Happy Candymaker Vs. the Conventional Wisdom

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. -- Barb Myers began working with Express Employment Professionals, an Oklahoma-based employment agency, over 20 years ago, packaging toffee candy at Enstrom Candies, the gourmet chocolatier known for its quality confections and high-end retail stores across Colorado.

"It was Aug. 7 of 1990 when I started working here," she said from the plant floor in Colorado. "I was a toffee packer. It was a seasonal job, so it would last until about the 22nd of December, and then I would get laid off until about July of the next year."

Her employment cycle continued with the same pattern for years until someone from the Grand Junction candy company had to go on leave.

Myers explains: "That year I was kept on full time, got a full-time position. Our supervisor in the toffee-packing department had to take time off to have surgery, and she wasn't going to be able to come back for the year. So I was a fill-in supervisor in the department until they could see if she was going to come back."

When the full-time supervisor didn't come back, she stayed on. "That was in 1996," she says. "I did that until 2001, and then I was promoted to production manager, because our production manager at the time stepped down."

Today, she not only is the production manager but also schedules and hires new workers. She feels she has a fulfilling job that makes a difference, and she was happy to recommend summer jobs there to both of her sons.

"I love my job," she says with unabashed pride.

Myers is not alone, not by a long shot. A poll of blue-collar workers, conducted by Harris Polling and sponsored by the employment agency that first placed her in her job, found that 85 percent of America's blue-collar workers see their lives heading "in the right direction." Nearly 69 percent of them believe their localities are as well.

"We take it very seriously. We are making a product that we are very proud of," she says of the much sought-after confections. Notice she does not say, "I am."

"Our candy is the best," she says. "I mean, I'm a little prejudiced, but it's the best in the country of the toffee or the other chocolates and different variety of candy that we produce. And we make sure that everything has the best ingredients and is the best quality it can be."

She says proudly of her blue-collar job, "To me, that's very important because we have sent our toffee around the world to presidents, and to actors and actresses."

While she stays mum on specifics about her personal political beliefs, that same survey found that nearly 70 percent of her fellow blue-collar workers across the country maintain a deep distrust of elected officials.

"I have the best job a person could have," Myers says with pride. Her optimism does not spill over to American politics. "It saddens me that people are so angry and hateful about other people's opinions. I just don't even get into any of it. No matter who is president, I feel that it's my duty to pray for them, and that's all I can do."

Myers is a refutation of the common narrative that blue-collar workers do not like their jobs, lack optimism about the future of their lives and their jobs, and obsess about politics in the same way the Washington political class does. There is a legitimate reason for that. Washington, D.C., is a company town. Of course, everything will be viewed through the prism of politics, but the livelihoods in Grand Junction, Colorado, are not always determined by politics.

While not all voters are on social media, pretty much all journalists are. So if you are following what is happening in the country through social media, are you really following what is happening in the country? Or are you just repeating and regurgitating the same thing said in different ways in other reporters' reports?

Worse yet, are you letting partisans lull you into believing their views are shared by everyone who wears their team jersey? I think some people might be. Perhaps if more people were to talk to the Barb Myerses of the world, more people would know that they don't spend their lives rattling off clever hot takes about their political viewpoints and they spend more time having pride in their work, their work ethic and how they are part of something larger than a tweet.

We are constantly viewing people's lives through the prism of politics. Perhaps we should step back and view their lives through a prism outside of politics. If we start to take into account how lives and the stability of their communities are on the scale of importance in their daily lives, and how trust in politics is not, perhaps we could make better conclusions of what is really needed in this country: rebuilding trust between the working class and the ruling class.

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