According to Mike Rowe, America relies on “dirty jobbers.” And they know that. So they show up for work even on their worst days.
Dirty Jobbers are the people who keep America running. They keep the power on and the sewers clean. They do all the tedious, dangerous, and sometimes ugly work that keeps food on our tables, our cars functioning, and our homes safe. Really, trade workers are always in the background ensuring we live comfortably. And usually, we’re so used to our standard of living that we don’t notice how much dirty jobbers do for us.
But Mike Rowe told Plough that people in blue-collar industries know how much we rely on their services. So they show up for work almost every day—no matter what the circumstances.
“They know that if they all call in sick for a week, civilization goes off the rails,” he said. “That’s something that a lot of people lose sight of. Civilization is fragile.”
Dirty jobbers don’t always get the recognition they deserve, but they’re proud of what they do. And Rowe said that the lifestyle creates a sense of camaraderie among blue-collar workers.
“And the knowledge that they are essential creates a spirit, something unmistakable. Shakespeare said it: ‘We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.’ I found that mentality among construction workers and garbage collectors and on factory floors. They know that the wheels would come off if they sat down on the job,” he continued.
But the most remarkable thing about Dirty Jobbers is their approach to life. Instead of chasing happiness and “passion,” they find it within themselves. And they carry it with them everywhere they go.
“The thing with the Dirty Jobbers that surprised people was what a good time they were having,” Rowe shared. “They were thriving. As a group, they don’t say ‘Follow your passion.’ By and large, the people we featured on the show understood that passion is too important to ‘follow.’ They brought their passion with them.”
Mike Rowe Tried to Work in Trades, Took a ‘Long Time’ to Realize He Wasn’t Cut Out for It
Mike Rowe understands the true value of America’s essential workers. Because of that, he dreamed of becoming a tradesman himself. But after spending years trying to pick up a trade—and failing every time—Rowe’s grandfather helped him realize that he has other talents that are just as useful.
As Rowe told Plough, nearly all of his family members worked skilled, blue-collar jobs. And the Dirty Jobs host hoped to follow in their footsteps. But he wasn’t cut out for the work. So his master electrician grandpa led Rowe on another path. And now, Mike Rowe spends his life honoring tradespeople instead.
“Unfortunately, the handy gene is recessive, and apparently, I didn’t get it,” he admitted. “It took me a long time to get the message that I was not going to make a living in the trades, but it was my grandfather who gave me a different way to think about things. He said, ‘Look, Mike, you can be a tradesman, just get a different toolbox.’”