VOICES from the WORK FRONT The day after Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa said that Americans "may lack a work ethic," we asked Marylanders )) about their personal work ethics and how their jobs fit into their lives.

February 05, 1992|By Holly Selby

Bill Dorman, third-generation owner, Peoples Electrical Supply Co. Inc., Gay Street.

The storefront sign says: "Vacations: the week of July 4th, Christmas week." Otherwise, Mr. Dorman, 47, is here 5:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, Saturdays 9 a.m. to noon, and "whatever time it takes left over to do the books." His 20-year-old daughter works here, too.

"It's a family business -- if you don't do it, it doesn't get done," he said. "I could leave right now [for the day] and have no problems but I'm taught the old-fashioned way -- you just work."

Besides, what's good about his business are the customers, he said. "There are five generations coming in here buying. We have grandfathers, sons and then you get into the cousins -- I can name them all."

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Mel Hughes, U.S. Postal Service mail carrier.

Mr. Hughes works 40-plus hours a week: "I have a family to support." But the Baltimore resident who was born in Trinidad said his models are his parents: a hospital housekeeper and a retired machinist. "I believe I work because that is what I saw my parents do. They said, 'Save your money, work hard, and save for retirement so you don't have to depend on Social Security.' "

As he stood on Patterson Park Avenue in a chill wind, he said even if he had a choice, he'd keep on working: "For myself, not for someone else. You can't get anywhere working for someone else."

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John Zelenka, mover.

During a busy week, Mr. Zelenka puts in about 40 hours; 30 when it's not. The 30-year-old from Hampden works because he "likes to eat." Customer satisfaction ranks high in his assessment of a good, hard day's work, but he hastily added, "Would I work if I were rich? No, I'd stop working. I'd travel."

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George Murray, full-time worker at Cambridge Iron and Metal Aliceanna Street, part-time pizza delivery driver.

"The way things are these days, both you and your wife have to work and you have to work a part-time job," said the 38-year-old Baltimore resident. And, he said, the reasons he works 70-odd hours a week are good: "my wife and kids."

Besides, "My parents told me 'work.' And if you have money, 'still work. Money doesn't last forever.' "

For his kids, however, he added some advice: "All I can give them is to say 'go to school' so they will have a choice -- they will decide for themselves what they want to do."

Stephanie Wilson, bartender at Weber's on Boston.

This full-time job is actually buying her time, said the 23-year-old bartender. "My mom [who manages a dental office] wanted me to be in the dental field, my dad [a doctor] wants me to be some kind of professional. Money would have a lot to do with it because my parents split up and if that ever happened to me I don't ever want to be in the position of not being self-supporting."

Last fall, after attending Essex Community College, Ms. Wilson had planned to go into dentistry, but now she's not sure what to do. "I'm pressured to support myself and to better myself because each generation should get better -- my father was the first to go to college in his family and he expects me to do at least as well or better. My mother's philosophy is I have plenty of time, I don't have to make up my mind fast."

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Nancy D'Alesandro, wife of the late mayor of Baltimore, Thomas Alesandro Jr.

"Work is what I've seen all my life. Politics was a 48-hour-a-day job, not 24 hours a day," said the 82-year-old mother of seven, grandmother of 16. "But I told my children that they had to do the right thing. If they had any doubts, it wasn't the right thing. I wanted them to do anything they wanted as long as they were decent people."

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Tom Henry, coordinator, governor's Eastern European program the Maryland International Division.

"I work because I need to pay bills. I work because I love it, I enjoy it," said Mr. Henry, 39, who just returned from Czechoslovakia. "A satisfying day is a nonstop day that doesn't end in one form or another till 7 or 8 o'clock. I like the doing and the accomplishing."

He officially works 40 hours a week and unofficially racks up about 55-60. Why? "I'm no good when I'm bored."

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Claudette House, general clerk for C&P Telephone.

After 20 years at C&P, Ms. House figures she works "in order to survive." But she knows that even as a "small child I had different chores to do and different responsibilities. Work grew up in me," she said.

The 58-year-old Baltimore resident also has tried to instill some of that sense of responsibility in her children. "I have tried to teach them to be self-sufficient," she said. "That to me, if I know I have a project and I have completed it to the best of my ability then I feel satisfied."

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