I spent 15 years in the welding field, was an ASME certified welder, built ASME certified pressure vessels and heat exchangers. The fab shops I worked at are across southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana. Places like Creole Steel, Allied Fabrication, Ohmstede, Fabricon,,,, only to name a few.
From 1986 – 1999 I saw wages eroded by inflation and greed by the employer.
One employer never gave raises, what you hired on at is what you made. After you were there for 3 months you “might” get a 25 cent raise, but never anything after that.
Another employer, their idea of a raise was 25 cents a year. That 25 cents was easily eaten up by inflation.
Today (2012), I would have to make between $66,000 – $67,000 to have the same standard of living that I had in 1990 when I was 22 years old. That $66,000 – $67,000 is just to maintain that standard of living, and not to improve it.
Welding shops in the area are not paying anywhere near that much these days. The last welding shop I worked at, I made around $45,000 a year.
Its not just a matter of low-skill jobs being associated with low wages, wages for skilled craftsmen have not kept with with inflation or minimum wage.
In 1987 I went to work for a certain company, at that time their top pay was 3.35X minimum wage.
Today, top pay at that same company is around 2X minimum wage.