NYT: Jobs Americans Do

The New York Times has published a review of work and workers in the Trump era.  A link to the stories is here.

Popular ideas about the working class are woefully out of date. Here are nine people who tell a truer story of what the American work force does today — and will do tomorrow. Popular ideas about the working class are woefully out of date. Here are nine people who tell a truer story of what the American work force does today — and will do tomorrow.

Applying to College from a Homeless Shelter

By Van Edgewater
I am living in a man’s homeless shelter to get this education, so that I can better myself for the future. This situation has exemplified to me what kind of life I would have if I do not get a better education, and it starts with finishing my high school accreditation.
I truly believe now that an education, the right education, is the answer to all things possible; a better and possible brighter future; a means to an end in all things to live a conducive and consequential life. I need this education to be that person, the person that I was meant to be: a humanitarian who helps point people in the right direction without judgment, so that they themselves can be better contributors to their own lives and society as well.
As for me, I have been living on borrowed time, borrowed money, job to job to job. I have grown weary of it, and unlike the people I spend my evenings and weekends with, I have not given up, nor am I just living to die.
A conviction as to where I am coming from is to walk in my shoes for the day. I doubt that any of you would have the stomach to do it for six hours. I see people putting on their job resumes or college applications that they volunteer at the homeless shelters. Well, I guess that it all fine and dandy if you are trying to appease someone and look good at the same time,
If you could imaging for a moment that you are re-wallpapering your newly acquired home and that you started with the baby’s room, and all of a sudden you puncture the wall with your scraper, and out comes what seems to be hundreds of roaches. That is what I live with day in and day out, the underlying truth.
And I want to be a Social Worker.
After living with these forks since March, 2015, I have come to question my own matriculation. I have come to the conclusion that I abhor these people, and that they deserve what is coming to them. I have been pondering this thought for quite some time; I have talked to a trusted sister and a confidante friend of mine — the mendacity to myself would be to walk away from this. To stand at this crossroads at this age at this time, I have learned that life has not been easy, so why should the future be any easier. This is what I was meant to be.

Van Edgewater is a Native American currently residing in a Salt Lake City shelter. He is part of an adult story writing project with teacher Tara Allred Niekamp, and he is writing poetry. The students are working to receive their high school diplomas.

Marching for Minimum Raise

April 15, 2015
by Lisa Calcasola

By the time the Fight for 15 protests stopped in Times Square in Manhattan on , it was dark. People who had been preparing for the event weeks ahead of time dropped their signs on the side of the road to be recycled and went their separate ways.

Even with most of the protestors gone, the space still felt electric with its energy.  I talked with Chantelle and Monica; Monica had a camera around her neck. I asked if she was interested in film, and she told me she was in film school now, studying to be a director. Film is one of the most accessible forms of media there is, and can reach a multifaceted audience, she said.

“I’m really interested in documentaries,” Monica said. “Film can shed light on lots of social issues and get the word out, teach people about what’s going on.”

When asked what she thought today’s biggest message was about, Chantelle feistily replied, “It’s all about not letting corporations steal from the people.”

“Corporations make billions of dollars and what’re they doing with it? They’re keeping it for themselves and stealing from the people. Today is all about making sure we don’t let them win. We won’t go down without a fight.” Continue reading

Close to the Edge

Michael Hiltzik of The Los Angeles Times writes about a new first-person account of the descent into poverty. Click here for the column.

One little-recognized reality of poverty in America is how closely it lurks beneath the surface of even a successful professional life. A bad career turn, a couple of financial missteps, and — here comes the dizzying plunge from middle class to underclass.

That’s the lesson of a remarkable first-person account in the latest issue of the Hedgehog Review, published by the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture of the University of Virginia. Entitled “Falling,” its author is William McPherson, 81, a published novelist, former editor of the Washington Post Book World and a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for criticism, in 1977.

A link to McPherson’s account is here.

THR - Fall 2014

San Francisco Votes $15 Minimum Wage; Votes in 4 States Advance Wages

Clare O’Connor Forbes Staff, Forbes Magazine

11/05/2014 @ 8:52AM

Low-wage retail and fast food workers can claim a second victory in a fight for a $15 minimum wage that has resulted in strikes, protests and arrests over the last two years.

On Tuesday, San Francisco voters approved a minimum wage of $15 across the city, joining Seattle, which raised its pay to the same sum in June. As in Seattle, San Francisco workers will see their wage increase incrementally. By next May, it’ll hit $12.25, climbing to $13 in 2016. By 2018, it’ll be $15, meaning a full-time minimum wage worker in the liberal California city can expect to make $31,000 a year.

Minimum wage also got a boost in four traditionally Republican states following Tuesday’s midterm elections, with voters approving ballot measures in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota.

In Alaska, low-wage workers will see their hourly pay boosted to $9.75 by 2016 (the federal minimum remains $7.25). In Arkansas, that number will be $8.50, while Nebraska voters approved a new hourly salary of $9. South Dakota workers will see their wage upped to $8.50 next year.

These red state wage hikes follow a campaign by President Obama to see the federal minimum raised to $10.10 per hour. The bill died on the Senate floor in April. Continue reading

4 States Voting on Minimum Wage Hikes

Huffington Post 10/31/2014

WASHINGTON — Republicans in Congress may be in no mood to hike the minimum wage, but four conservative-leaning states are poised to do it on their own next week.

Initiatives to raise the minimum wage appear on the ballot in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota on Tuesday. Alaska, Arkansas and South Dakota all have Republican-controlled legislatures, and Nebraska is solidly red despite the official lack of party affiliation in its statehouse.

Recent polls have shown strong support for each of these ballot initiatives. That should come as no surprise. The idea of hiking the wage floor tends to receive bipartisan backing among Americans, with around two-thirds of voters saying they favor such proposals in most surveys.

“We’re expecting them all to go through,” said Tsedeye Gebreselassie, an attorney with the National Employment Law Project Action Fund, which advocates for a higher minimum wage. “I would be shocked if it didn’t go through in any of the states.”

If the ballot measures pass, they will mark a milestone of sorts for the minimum wage.

Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia currently have their own minimum wage set higher than the federal level of $7.25 per hour, and Maryland and Hawaii will soon join them thanks to laws passed earlier this year. Of the four states weighing proposals next week, three of them — Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota — have their wage floors set at just $7.25.

If all four ballot measures make it through, a majority of states will have effectively determined that the federal minimum wage set by Congress is too low. They would include large swaths of the U.S. where the cost of living is generally lower than average — a common argument among conservatives against raising the federal wage floor.

Alaska’s measure would hike the state’s minimum wage from $7.75 to $9.75 by 2016. Arkansas’ minimum wage would go to $8.50 by 2017, Nebraska’s to $9 by 2016, and South Dakota’s to $8.50 by next year. The measures in Alaska and South Dakota would also tie the minimum wage to an inflation index, so that the wage floor would rise with the cost of living. Ten states have already indexed their minimum wages.

Illinois also has a minimum wage measure on the ballot Tuesday, though it’s nonbinding and merely allows voters to send a message to state lawmakers.

The last time the country saw so many minimum-wage ballot initiatives in a midterm election was 2006, when there were six — in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Nevada and Ohio. The fate of those measures bodes well for the backers of this year’s initiatives: Every one of them passed.

Democrats in Congress have proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 and tying it to inflation, a measure backed by President Barack Obama. House Republicans have so far refused to give the bill a vote, however, and Senate Democrats haven’t managed to round up enough votes to overcome a GOP filibuster. If Republicans win control of the Senate next week, the prospects of a federal minimum wage hike anytime soon will become even dimmer.

Given the gridlock in Washington, the president has urged cities and states to bypass Congress and raise their own minimum wages.

“To every mayor, governor and state legislator in America, I say, ‘You don’t have to wait for Congress to act,'” Obama said in his State of the Union speech in January. “Americans will support you if you take this on.”

Continue reading

Doctor Says No Overtime; Pregnant Woman’s Boss Says No Job

The New York Times OCT. 19, 2014

Angelica Valencia put the doctor’s note in her pocketbook and stepped out of her apartment in the early morning darkness. Then she started praying.

She prayed on the crowded buses and on the subway train that carried her from Queens into the Bronx to the potato-packing plant where she worked. “Please let me keep my job,” she repeated during her two-hour commute. “Please let everything work out.”

She punched in at 7:30 a.m. and handed her manager the note. Then Ms. Valencia, who was 39 and three months pregnant, went straight to work. Last year, she had a miscarriage. This time, her doctor said, she was once again high risk. No overtime, he ordered, just eight hours a day.

But it was the busy season at the Fierman Produce Exchange, and her bosses had already told her she had to work overtime. So as Ms. Valencia sorted potatoes on that Aug. 8 morning, she worried: How would her supervisors respond to the doctor’s note? At the end of her shift, would she still have a job?

This month is the first anniversary of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which was signed into law by former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on Oct. 2, 2013. The law, which went into effect in January, represents a big step forward for working women. Continue reading