Comp: How Mechanics Get Paid : Planet Money A socket jockey reveals how it works.
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Comp: How Mechanics Get Paid

The wage floor for socket jockeys. vkdir/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 hide caption

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vkdir/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

With another look at how pay works, Raymond McCormick checks in from McCormick Diesel & Brake in Palmdale, Calif.:

So how does your average socket jockey get compensated? We use a system called "Flag Hours." Essentially every job or task you have, be it oil change, brake job or tune-up, has a predetermined amount of time it should takes to perform said job or task. Most shops tend to use a big books called Labor Time Guides to find these time. So as a mechanic you are assigned an brake job on a truck that should take 3 hours. If you do it in under three hours, great — you get paid for three hours of work. However if it takes you 4 and a half hours, bummer you are still only getting paid for 3 hours of work.

And if you are not working on a job you are not "flagging" any hours. It is an incentive for mechanics to work efficiently. And if a job they work on comes back because they made a mistake they do not "flag" any hours for the repair.

Sounds pretty simple at first glance, but there are some other things to consider; first off you are supposed to be earning at least minimum wage any time you are at the shop during your scheduled hours, and in California if you work a job where you provide your own tools (like a mechanic) you are entitled to by law to make at least least double the minimum wage.

I am sad to report there are many shops that do not follow these laws, where mechanics do not earn minimum wage at all times spent on duty, or even though they provide their own tools they are not earning double minimum wage. This is due to a combination of many not knowing the law and their rights, and the fact that in this economy mechanics would rather be under-paid then unemployed.