Working Class Heroes

What do cow birthing, mattress recycling, maggot farming, salt mining, skull cleaning, and airport runway maintenance have in common?

One fearless man with, well, more than just a little dirt under his fingernails.

His name is Mike Rowe.


Photo by Sklmsta via Wikimedia Commons

You probably know Rowe from his television show, Dirty Jobs, in which he spent several years traveling to all 50 states, working as an apprentice on over 300 jobs that most people go out of their way to avoid.

Septic Tank Cleaner?


Shock value notwithstanding, Mike’s ultimate goal was to spotlight and celebrate hard-working Americans who make civilized life possible for the rest of us.

I love this guy.

And he just keeps getting better.

What you probably don’t know about Mike Rowe is that on Labor Day of 2008, he launched a website called, which focuses on the decline of blue-collar trades that are essential to keeping this country on its feet—think construction, railroad engineering, road work, skilled manufacturing, truck driving … you get the idea.


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

“As the host of a TV show about hard work, people often assume I speak for tradesmen and skilled workers. In reality, I don’t. I can only speak for myself and anyone else who shares my addiction to paved roads, reliable bridges, heating, air conditioning, and indoor plumbing,” Rowe declared before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation in 2011.

Mike’s call to arms is aimed at redefining what he describes as “our nation’s dysfunctional relationship with work.”

And, no, he insists he is not running for office.

He’s just a good-deed kind of guy.


Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via Wikimedia Commons

The mikeroweWORKS Foundation has provided over a million dollars in tool stipends and scholarships to people looking to learn a skill or master a trade.

What’s more, Mike has partnered up with Discovery Communications on a new multimedia initiative, Discover Your Skills, to provide unemployed and underemployed Americans with access to resources for obtaining marketable job skills and employment opportunities.

Thanks to Mike, it has never been easier to don a blue collar and bolster the foundation of America.

Tune In, Tradeswomen!

Lest you shrug off the topic of trades because it feels like “man’s work,” let’s regroup here.

Gender boundaries ain’t what they used to be.

Mike’s website highlights Pride and a Paycheck, a newsletter tailored to women who work—or would like to work—in the trades. It includes resources, announcements, safety tips, photos, stories, art, and poetry by tradeswomen as well as advice from advocates who recruit new workers into these surprisingly lucrative professions.


For a free e-mail subscription to Pride and a Paycheck, send your request to


  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Mike’s show has helped restore value to vocations that we all depend upon everyday. The high school director of career and technical programs locally likes to use this example: If you break down on the highway, do you want someone to stop who is a car mechanic or a brain surgeon? For the past few decades , we have removed these important training opportunities from our middle and high schools for all college prep classes. I don’t know about Idaho, but Home Economics was retired about 30 years ago from our schools. It is such a shame!

  2. melyssa says:

    I love Mike! He used to be an opera singer, just like the Mike I married. 🙂

  3. Julie Kram says:

    I’ve been teaching shop classes for over 15 years. I have seen Michigan de-value trades in favor of higher education. I’ve been arguing all along, and still, that if everyone is a doctor nobody will fix the car (or the plumbing, heating, roads, houses, etc). We all have skills and abilities unique to us. America in general, and Michigan in particular, should celebrate the blue-collar people who really make everything happen for everyone. Amen, Mike Rowe and Mary Jane!!!!!!!

  4. Suzanne Bergholz says:

    I had no idea that Mike Rowe was this deep, motivational man-person! I am in awe and so grateful for his perspective and his creativity. I am a graduate of a registered nurse 3 year program that incorporated college level programs with practical hands-on training. I have always encouraged trades education because our society needs skilled laborers. Yes, college education is a wonderful aspiration but, we are all different with different skill-sets. I think that I am in love with Mike Rowe…lol.

  5. Karlyne says:

    One of my pet peeves is how we under-value or don’t value at all, “menial” work! How would the CEOs and the doctors and lawyers and other such white-collar workers function without the housekeepers, nannies and gardeners working for them (at minimum wage, I might add)? At least the plumbers and electricians and road-builders are making a good wage, and are even, in this college-mad world, usually appreciated. You go, Mike Rowe! Keep spreading the word!

  6. Sue Doro says:

    Thank you so much Mary Jane for highlighting Mike Rowe’s website. He’s a hero to all of us at Pride and a Paycheck. Supporting women in the trades takes a giant step forward when TV figures feature actual women at work in blue collar trades jobs! Young people need to see it! We all do. Pride and a Paycheck welcomes free subscribers. You can print the issues off the pdf files and pass them out to even more folks. Just send us your email address and we’ll put you on our list! Thanks. Sue Doro, Editor Pride and a Paycheck.

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