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November/December 2005

Yosemite @ $7.38 An Hour: Seasonal Work in the National Parks

Our scribe-turned-pizzaman labors in the land of granite and pulls back the curtain on the seasonal-employment fantasy.

It’s immediately clear this will be a colorful week. At 26, Boris is spending his fourth summer here. This three-month job constitutes the entirety of his annual fiscal strategy. Last year he took in $8,000, minus the $2,000 he paid his “agent” in Slovenia for processing his “student” work- exchange application and getting him a plane ticket.

Boris’s earnings finance his globetrotting, and he’s delighted with the current state of understaffing. He’s well beyond 40 hours this week, his $7.38 an hour bumped up to $11.07. At one point he turns to me and gleefully reports: “I make more than president of Sri Lanka!”

If you work in Yosemite, you probably work for the Delaware North Company, one of many private concessionaires that run everything from luxury hotels to garbage collection to whitewater-rafting operations in most national parks. Yes, there are other gigs in the valley. But National Park Service jobs are harder to come by, and the other, smaller concessions employ only a few handfuls of people. I came in with the blessing of DNC’s PR department, which set me up with a cabin, a meal card identifying me as Associate A7284, and a uniform. I arrived just after the height of the spring rush.

Before coming, I mentioned my mission to a friend. Jarratt, who worked his college summers at Yosemite, was only too happy to download me with bad attitude toward his former employer, reverse-engineering the company acronym as “Does Not Care” and “The Devil Needs Cash.” Given how jaundiced Jarratt’s perspective is on most other earthly phenomena, though, I didn’t pay it much mind.

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