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Fri Nov 16, 2012, 10:12 AM

This Week in Poverty: The Cliff and The Janitors Who Are Already On It


“I really want people to understand that we all work just as hard as the next person that’s in a business suit,” says Tamika Maxwell, mother of three, describing her work as a janitor in Cincinnati, her hometown.

Along with 1,000 colleagues in the city, Maxwell hopes that current negotiations between SEIU and the city’s cleaning contractors will raise their $9.80 hourly wage—which, for annual full-time work, still leaves a family of three below the federal poverty line and relying on food stamps and Medicaid. In essence, the state ends up subsidizing corporations to continue paying people a non-living wage.

“My paycheck is the same amount as my Duke Energy bill,” says Maxwell. “And you know they don’t care—they will cut you off if you don’t have their money.”

Maxwell works part-time while also pursuing a business degree at Cincinnati State. She’s now employed by Scioto Services, which recently won the contract for the Public Defender’s office building that she has cleaned for four years. The company retained Maxwell but cut back all of the janitors’ hours. Instead of working the 5:00-10:00 pm shift five days per week, Maxwell now works only four.

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