The Worst Character in Breaking Bad (And I Don’t Mean Walt)   5 comments

It’s been a LONG time since I last blogged, and I honestly wasn’t sure if I was going to return to this blog, start a new one, or just quit blogging for good. Still don’t know, and while I could update you all (well, whoever is still here after all this time which, for all I know, is like twelve people) on the nightmare that has been my life during the last year (the Cliffs Notes version: illness, death, poverty, desperation, hopelessness, alienation, more death, and then still more death), I really don’t want to go into all that today.

So, on a lighter note: Breaking Bad. No, we still don’t have a TV but what are friends for, right?

I’ve been following the Breaking Bad threads on some of the mainstream feminist and progressive blogs and was once again reminded (not that I really needed a reminder) how incredibly different my perspective is from that of the predominantly middle class liberals who post and comment on these blogs. I realize people haven’t had my experiences, but I was nonetheless surprised to discover that Hank is actually a popular character. Hank the racist DEA guy who beats up suspects, violates people’s constitutional rights, and treats illegal drug users like subhuman garbage. That Hank.
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Tax Code Insanity: Couple Living Below Poverty Line Faces Higher Tax Rate Than Romney   4 comments

When tax time rolled around in April, my partner and I had zero income and were facing homelessness, so asking for an extension was a no-brainer. We were hoping we’d be in a better financial position in October. What else could we do?

We are indeed both working now. In fact, we work so many hours a week we almost never see each other and rarely have time for anything beyond working, sleeping and eating. Which is also why I haven’t been blogging. No time. It’s a pretty miserable existence. It’s also a precarious existence.

Since we’re both classified as independent contractors, we don’t qualify for the minimum wage, overtime, workers comp, health insurance, or unemployment benefits. And we can lose what little we have at the drop of a hat.

Despite this, we are doing better now than we have been in a while. As long as my partner puts in at least 72 hours a week and I work 30-40 on top of the uncompensated work I do around the house and taking care of the dogs, we can usually cover our rent, food, and bills. Unfortunately there’s nothing left over to see a dentist or buy a winter coat, and the only reason our beloved Balou is still hanging in there is that some kind, compassionate people are paying for his meds.
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Taking Advantage of Lousy Economy, Employer Charges $10 Application Fee for Temp Job   2 comments

Following my recent experience completing nine days of unpaid training and passing a series of nerve-wracking tests only to be told that the company wasn’t going to hire anyone after all, I thought I was beyond being surprised by the ways in which employers will take advantage of workers’ desperation in this rotten economy. Then I came across this ad:
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Drug Testing Is Only for the Little People   Leave a comment

When you read a lot of Help Wanted ads, you begin to notice certain patterns. One thing I’ve noticed is how common drug testing has become–for hourly jobs. In fact, if the employer is a midsized to large company, mandatory drug screening is now the norm for hourly workers. But not for most salaried employees. And the higher up you go, the less likely it is that you’ll encounter a drug testing requirement.

I was wondering why that might be. Are people who make very little money really more likely to spend that money on illegal drugs than people with plenty of discretionary income? That doesn’t seem likely. I admit, the constant stress and fear of not being able to pay your bills can make escape from reality a tempting proposition. Except, of course, that drugs tend to cost money, and it takes a hell of a lot more than a low wage job to finance a drug habit.

Maybe it’s just that employers, like many middle/upper class folks, have a rather low opinion of low income people. Poor people are lazy and have no work ethic. That’s why they’re poor, you see. Plus, they lie, steal, cheat, and they’re probably druggies too!*

It’s also possible, of course, that employers would love to drug test all those professional and managerial types as well, but they’re afraid people with options wouldn’t stand for that kind of privacy invasion. So they focus their ought-to-be-unconstitutional drug screening efforts on people who have few options. My partner and I strongly object to drug testing, but will that keep us from applying for a job that requires it? Sadly, no. Because we desperately need the work.
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Freelance Nation: How Protections for American Workers Are Becoming Increasingly Irrelevant   2 comments

Once upon a time you could be fairly certain that investing the time, money, and effort required to earn a four-year degree would allow you to land a good job with medical/dental/vision benefits, a retirement plan, and paid vacation time. In the event of a bad break, you could count on being covered by worker’s comp and unemployment insurance. While you may never get rich, you’d be comfortable, with no trouble financing a new car or qualifying for a mortgage. In fact, go back far enough and this type of security and lifestyle was even available to many people without a college degree.

Those days are increasingly behind us.

While big companies have spent the last 2-3 decades offshoring jobs to countries with low labor costs and few worker and environmental protections, businesses of all sizes are in on the latest trend to impoverish American workers and strip them of protections. What am I talking about? The rise of freelance nation.

Companies have figured out that in a labor market where demand for jobs far outstrips their supply, there’s no need to put workers on the payroll when it’s so much cheaper to just hire them as independent contractors. Pay only for the work you need, and then it’s adios, baby.
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More Evidence that the Real Economy Is Getting Worse Instead of Better   2 comments

Whenever I leave my little corner of the web and venture over to one of the big Democratic cheerleading sites, I’m told that we’re in the middle of a slow but steady economic recovery. Strange, I think to myself, because it sure doesn’t look that way from where I’m sitting.

Until the beginning of this year, my partner and I were at least getting by. Our freelance business wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire, but we were able to cover the basics. This year, however, virtually every one of our repeat clients has disappeared. Since two-thirds of our clients are repeat business, this is huge. And replacing them with new clients has proven extremely difficult. Not only are there far fewer projects to go around, but the small businesses we serve have become increasingly price-conscious, frequently expecting freelancers to work for next to nothing. If they hire anyone at all, that is. A substantial percentage of projects is simply canceled.

This is why we’ve been desperate to find full-time employment. Every day we comb the newspapers’ Help Wanted sections and the online job boards, and every day we notice how few jobs are available. So I wasn’t surprised to find the following statistic on the website of one of the large job aggregators:

In our area, there’s been a 49% drop in job postings compared to last year.
Nationwide, there’s been a 32% decline.

Source: Indeed.com (a site that aggregates job postings from newspapers, job sites, associations, and company career pages)

So much for that recovery, huh?
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The Latest in Corporate Contempt for Workers   2 comments

You’re not going to believe this. Then again, maybe you will.

Remember the job I was telling you about? Nine days of unpaid training and the need to pass a bunch of proficiency tests, after which we were to start a part-time, no-benefits contract job for $9.50 an hour? Today I received a notice congratulating me on passing the final test. Unfortunately, the notice then went on to inform me that the project has been canceled. Just like that. There will be no jobs for anyone. No reason was given.

I’m still reeling from the news. While it may not sound like much, in our current situation, this job was like a lifeline. True, it was a contract job, but the contract period was to be extended indefinitely, and we’re desperate for any kind of steady income. Also, while the pay was low and the hours limited, there was a clear path to advancement, which would have meant better pay and more hours in the future. Most of all, we have no other source of income right now. None. Which is why I worked my ass off during the training period, even spending precious time away from my critically ill Balou because I really, really needed this job to work out.

The job was scheduled to start today. When I didn’t hear from my supervisor yesterday, I was a bit worried that maybe I hadn’t done as well as I thought on the final test, but it never occurred to me that the whole project had been canceled. That there might not be any work at the end of the training period even after passing all the proficiency tests with flying colors (which, it turns out, I did) was never even mentioned as a possibility.
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