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Friday, September 28, 2001

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Working poverty

I finished reading "Nickel and Dimed" by Barbara Ehrenreich. The subtitle is "On (Not) Getting By in America". It's a very interesting and hard to read book. It wasn't hard as in boring but hard as in things I don't want to think about. She worked at several jobs, waitressing, maid work, retail, and tried to live on the six or seven dollar an hour range that she made. She couldn't. I could see ways that she could have done better but it is impossible to live decently, much less to raise children on the bottom ranges.

I was lucky that I had daycare assistance with Mike and Lisa, but I remember when I just had Mike and was separated from his father for a few months. I had him is a daycare where they basically kept them in cribs all day. He was about a year old and this was not good but I couldn't afford anything else and didn't have a car to get anywhere else. The inability to get your kids to decent daycare without a car is one of the big reasons for having decent transit.

I was also lucky in that I could do office work and while the pay wasn't all that much better the benefits were more available though expensive. I also didn't have the physical strain of working on my feet all day and then having to come home to two babies. I still had the major expense that the author found, housing. There just is not decent housing available when you can't come up with a deposit and first and last month's rent. I can remember looking at my budget and being unable to save money because rent took such a chunk.

I was lucky in have Betty help me out and family that I could count on in a pinch and knowing I wouldn't end up on the street if push came to shove, but it was hard. Barbara Ehrenreich writes a good book and a book that everyone should read. The people that hurt the most are the ones that are trying and yet can't make it. I know there were times when I figured I would be better off to quit work, go on welfare and get subsidized housing and food stamps. It's hard to keep trying when people don't understand how hard it is.

I also agreed with her reason that so many people put up with low wages and crappy working conditions, you can't afford to lose your job. When you can afford to be a week without a paycheck it's hard to stand up to a bad boss. When it comes down to a choice between buying groceries for your children (or yourself) and standing up for yourself, groceries usually wins out.

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Rachel Aschmann 2001.
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