Interview with Ballentine Palubinsky
DB: How old are you Ballentine?
DB: Where did you grow up?
BP: I grew up in Las Vegas Nevada, I have been in Olympia for about 4 years now.
DB: What was your first job?
BP: The first time that I ever worked was at a movie theater inside of a casino. I was 17 and they had me cleaning theaters when the movies were done. I made $5.45 an hour.
DB: Were you still in school at the time?
DB: How long did you work there?
BP: December 1999 to April 2000.
DB: What happen when you left that job?
BP: Well I had been applying for a job at the mall where I wouldn’t have to wear a uniform. So I really wanted that mall job because not only was there no uniform but I could wear dresses and nail polish. So I upgraded jobs was all. I worked at the mall selling cloths for 5 years.
DB: How much did you make there?
BP: I took a pay cut. I made $5.17. When I left after 5 years I made $7.25.
DB: What was that like working in the mall, in retail?
BP: There were parts of it that sucked, but there were parts that were cool. The mall in itself was like its own community. You got to know people that worked at other shops and there was a friends circle of just mall people. It was close to my house, I could walk. They were flexible and I told them that I was going to college to be a teacher so they would only schedule me when I didn’t have class and I was living at home at the time so I could getaway with working 15 hours a week and it wouldn’t be a big deal. In that way it was kind of cool.
DB: Then you became a teacher?
BP: Yeah, I was in college. I student-taught for a year, well like 6 months then I got hired, well I was a substitute teacher for about 2 years and that was the worst job I’ve ever had. Nobody respects a sub. You roll into a different school everyday and then you never see those people again. Everyday is like your first day but you are expected to work.
DB: Going back to the retail job, what was the worst thing about working there, if anything?
BP: So it was super cool the first year, … And then we got bought out by the gap. Shit changed real quick. … They were all about loss prevention. They said you had to catch so many people a quarter. And I just never would do it. … And if you didn’t meet [the quota] you didn’t get a raise. So sometimes I just wouldn’t get a raise. I would go 6 months and when it came up for review everything was perfect but I didn’t catch so many people shoplifting so I didn’t get a raise.
DB: What were the raises?
BP: 25 cents was the top one.
DB: and by the end of it you were still making minimum wage anyway?
BP: Yeah and this was completely without benefits.
DB: Did you consider yourself political at this time?
BP: Yeah, but at that time in Nevada in the early 2000s there wasn’t anything going on. …the entire time I worked at the mall I think the only thing I was involved in was some pretty minor anti-war protests.
DB: With the Iraq war?
DB: Was there anything defining about becoming political that happened for you?
BP: … I realized that [the FBI] did terrible things. The real kicker was that they sent MLK a letter telling him to kill himself and I was like I’m not onboard with the United States it turns out. It went against everything I was ever told. Then when I got to high school my government teachers showed me two videos one about the Zapatista, and one about the Battle in Seattle.
DB: You’re a wobbly, right?
DB: When did you join?
BP: 2012 was when I signed up. During Occupy there was an effort made by people in Las Vegas to make a branch of the IWW. It didn’t really work out.
DB: You rejoined the wobblies here in Olympia?
BP: Yeah, I rejoined when I was homeless.
DB: How long were you homeless?
BP: Off and on a couple times, but only for like 2 weeks at a time. It was always in between pay checks, just until I found a place. Each time it was always wobblies that helped me out. Wobblies let me stay in their back yard, wobblies let me stay in their living room. Its hard with background checks and credit checks and my friend who I live with has an eviction on her record so we couldn’t find anywhere to live.
DB: And your pretty involved with the IWW here?
BP: I’d say so. I go to a lot of the meetings, I am a chair of a committee, in the past I helped organize May Day. So I don’t know what all I do…
DB: You do a lot
DB: Any advice for people?
BP: If there isn’t a scene where you’re at, then just start one. That’s what I learned in Vegas. There was no shortage of people who wanted to do stuff but there was no one doing it.
DB: Thanks Ballentine