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On Wage-Slavery in America [View All]

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NMMNG Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-26-06 03:54 AM
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On Wage-Slavery in America
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According to the 2000 Census:
12.8% of US households lived on $25,000-$34,999 a year
12.8% of US households lived on $15,000-$25,999 a year
6.3% of US households lived on $10,000-$14,999 a year
And 9.5% of US households lived on less than $10,000 a year

This means that 44.1% of Americans lived on $34,999 or less a year

Such are the lives of the wage-slaves in the United States. Those individuals who typically work just as hard and long, if not more so, than their much higher paid counterparts, yet are paid significantly less.

These are the people who work for minimum wage or a few cents/dollars more per hour. Some wait-staff at times average less than minimum wage between their base rate and tips, despite the fact that their employer is legally obligated to ensure that they make at least minimum wage between the two. Absent or inadequate are benefits such as health insurance, dental insurance, paid sick time and such that many more well-off employees tend to take for granted.

I know about this life from having lived it for the past 20 years. I have worked fast-food, retail and human services. Ive been in human services for over 18 years and am only making $3.98 more an hour than when I started, and I was not making much then. Most of my adult life Ive needed to work steady overtime or a second (even third) job just to make ends meet. Even with two full-time jobs I cannot break out of the 44.1% of Americans who live on $34,999 or less a year.

Life is similar for many of the people Ive worked with over the years. Many of my co-workers work overtime on a regular basis, or have second part-time or even full-time jobs to supplement their pay. Those who cant work second jobs because they have families might have a spouse or partner who contributes by working one or more jobs. Those who have no partner sometimes are required to apply for government benefits of one sort or another.

Working for such low pay also forces employees to work under conditions they shouldnt, and often wouldnt if they had proper benefits and/or salary. Employees come to work sick or injured, or return too soon after an illness or injury because they have insufficient sick leave. They let illness/injury go untreated because of inadequate, unaffordable or non-existent health insurance. They go years without dental care because they lack dental coverage.

Ive gone to work or stayed on shift countless times with severe migraines, which can take up as many as 12 days of each month (and historically have averaged 17 days of each month). Insurance limits, high co-pays and salary restrictions keep me from getting optimal treatment of this condition. A long-time coworker continued working her two full-time jobs as much as possible while being treated for abdominal cancer, taking off only for the most severe of symptoms. My friend Mike, also a migraine sufferer, will often work through migraines, making sure he has easy access to the bathroom in case he has to vomit on short notice.

Most disturbingly just this past Friday a young woman who was four months pregnant had a miscarriage. She came back in on Saturday not realizing that the supervisor had covered her shift for the entire weekend to protect the agency for liability purposes. This young woman, who barely 12 hours prior had sat in a hospital bed and expelled her fetus and placenta into a bedpan, stood there, anxious because she could not work her two 16 hour shifts. The two kids I already have still gotta eat and I dont have sick time yet. she said.

It shouldnt be this way.

Recommended reading: Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenriech
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