Monday, March 16, 2015

More about the world of low-wage work

Wonder what it would be like to really work for a living?  Well, do it.  Or read the front page story in The Washington Post Sunday, “For the biscuit shift of today, life’s ladder has wobbly rungs; At this Hardee;s almost everyone works to live”, link here.
The article harks back to Barbara Ehrenreich’s experiments with low wage work (“Nickel and Dimed”, 2001), as well as to my own father’s exhortations on manual labor. Fast food environments would really test "whether you can work."  For professionals, often in the 50s, whose IT skills went sour, it’s “the free market cultural revolution” of stringing together interim jobs.  Call it “paying your dues”.  Of course, higher minimum wages could help.
And we wonder if this kind of problem is societal, or personal.
It’s both.
My lowest wage was $6 and hour, calling for the Minnesota Orchestra in 2002-2003, but I earned some commissions and actually had some stability.  As a debt collector, later I made $10, and commissions.  (A lot of people worked as debt collectors then, sometime moonlighting tending bar.)  

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